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B:.llfiu<in. . F.Lucas .r; 






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BY J. HiiicCULLOH, JR., M. D- 


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Distrirt of' J\Iarylan(l, to icii: 

BE IT REMEMBERED, That on the tliiily-first day of October, in the fifty-foiirlh year 
of the independence of the United States of America, James H. McCulloh, Jr., M. D. of ihe 
said Disuict, has deposited in this ofHce the title of a book, the right whereof he claims as au- 
thor, in the worfs following, to wit: 

"Researches, Philosophical and Antiquarian, concerning the Aboriginal history of America. 
By J, H. McCulloh, Jr., M. D." 

In conformity with the Act of the Congress of the United States, entitled "An act for the 
encouragement of learning, by securing the copies of maps, charts and books, to the authors 
and propi'ietors of such copies, during the times therein mentioned:" and also to the Act, entitled 
"An Act supplementary to the Act, entitled 'An Act for the encouragement of learning, by 
securing the copies of maps, charts, and books, to the authors and proprietors oj such copies, 
during the times therein mentioned,' and extending the benefits thereof to the arts of designing, 
engraving and etching historical and other prints." 

Clerk of the District of Manjintul. 




Rector of Long-Newton., {England. ) 


Whatever may have been the use of a dedication 
in former times, it has now become of httle impor- 
tance, except as it enables an author to bestow his 
greatest comphment upon an esteemed friend, or some 
distinguished and honourable personage. In the ex- 
ercise of my privilege in this particular, I feel gratifi- 
ed to have the opportunity to render homage to your 
name, as the author of several works upon subjects 
connected with the early history of man, and which 
you have so admirably investigated. 

In my labours among the ancient monuments of 
the human race, I entered the interesting field of re- 
search by a route different from that by which you 
had made such great advances. It was therefore 
with the highest satisfaction that I have from time 
to time found myself in a path on which your steps 
had been impressed, and which often while I hesi- 


tated amid perplexed routes, shewed the proper 
course I should pursue. 

This expression of my respectful esteem, is, there- 
fore, not only elicited from the sympathy of congenial 
studies, but from a sense of obligation for the benefits 
I have derived from your literary labours. 

That you may long enjoy reputation and every 
happiness, is the earnest wish of him, who with all 
respect, thus introduces himself to your notice, and 
desires to be numbered with your well-wishers and 

I remain. Sir, 

Your obedient humble servant, 


Baltimore, October 31, 1829. 


As the author of the following pages is conscious 
that this essay falls short of being complete in its ex- 
hibition of the subject he has undertaken to investi- 
gatCj he feels unwilling that the deficiences or imper- 
fections of the work should be attributed to any want 
of exertion on his part. It is therefore hoped that 
he may be permitted, without the appearance of egot- 
ism, to say a few words upon the nature of his labour 
in the composition of the present volume. 

Before the author had completed his studies in the 
profession for which he was originally intended, he 
had employed himself with an attempt to understand 
the manner by which America had been supplied with 
men and animals. At that time, though his views 
hardly extended beyond explaining the mere physi- 
cal difficulties that belong to the investigation, they 
were deemed sufficiently interesting by the late Dr. 
Rush of Philadelphia, and some other friends, to be 
laid before the public. That essay, which a few per- 
sons may have read, has been almost entirely forgot- 
ten. Very soon after its publication, the author re- 
ceived a subordinate appointment in the Custom 
House, where he has been employed ever since. 


The necessary attention required to comprehend the 
duties of his new employment^ as well as the labori- 
ous execution of its details, for many years entirely 
diverted him from any philosophical pursuit; but 
about seven years since, he began to devote the par- 
tial leisure of the day, once more, to an investigation 
of the ancient history of America, which, among a 
variety of cares, interruptions and employments, has 
been gradually brought into the system now present- 
ed to the reader. 

His first object, as in the former essay, was to ex- 
plain the origin of the men and animals of America, 
so far as that question is involved with the apparent 
physical impediments that have so long kept the sub- 
ject in total obscurity. But as it was soon perceived 
that the history of America was but a part of the 
general history of man and nature, it became abso- 
lutely necessary, that every part of this vast subject 
should be examined and compared with whatever 
was interesting in the physical and moral history of 
this continent. The author, therefore, entirely chang- 
ed his original plan, and commenced the study of the 
general subject, with the hope of being able by suc- 
cessive researches, to place the history of aboriginal 
America in its true bearing with that of the eastern 
continent. It was naturally concluded, that with a 
correct exhibition of the subject, the origin of both 
men and animals would be almost conclusively ascer- 

The difficulties with which the author has had to 
contend in procuring suitable books, can hardly be 
appreciated but by those who have attempted a simi- 
lar investigation in the United States. The public 


library of Baltimore^ although an excellent collection 
of books for general readers, was very deficient in 
those useful to his research; he was therefore obliged, 
as far as his own means allowed, to procure them from 
England and France, when an opportunity occurred 
to make the purchase; for as the earlier writers on 
America have been long out of print, it is but seldom 
they can be obtained. Indeed it has been impossible 
to procure the Spanish writers in their own language, 
and this will explain the reason why they are some- 
times quoted according to a French translation. 

A great number of other books on ancient history, 
geography, mythology, &c. which he desired to ex- 
amine, have been also unattainable to any means he 
could exert. In consequence, much quotation at se- 
cond hand has taken place, and to his regret often in 
a partial and defective manner, according to the pur- 
poses of the writers who quoted from original sources. 
He has been scrupulously exact in citing authorities 
in such instances, lest there should be other matters 
not furnished in the extract, which might render him 
liable to the imputation of garbling quotations to suit 
his own views. 

But in admitting the deficiency of his materials, in 
several respects important to a full view of the subject 
of his present investigation, the author hopes, never- 
theless, that he shall not be considered presumptuous 
in publishing the following work, and it is chiefly to 
justify this step, that these prefatory remarks have 
been made. Though he has not read all that has 
been written directly upon the Indians of America, 
or upon other subjects connected with the research, 
yet these different matters have been so far investi- 


gated, that the author believes himself possessed of 
all the important facts necessary to form a good gen- 
eral opinion upon the whole subject. He cannot pre- 
sume, that the relations of those writers unexamined 
by him out of a collection of others upon the very 
same subject, will be found to contain matters invali- 
dating the statements of those consulted, and whose 
writings agreeing together in a general view, leave 
no room to suspect a discrepancy with those which 
he has not seen. 

He ventures then to illustrate the position he has 
assumed, by that of a mathematician who commences 
to examine an unknown and rugged country, where 
many prominent objects strike the eye from a distance. 
Like him, the author has measured a base line, and 
ascertained the angular bearings of the more interest- 
ing points. But though the leading features have 
been thus ascertained, a series of smaller triangles 
must yet be established before the survey can be con- 
sidered complete. 

The author's literary obligations to individuals, 
though few in number, are nevertheless too great to 
be overlooked. To the Honourable Mr. Du Ponceau 
of Philadelphia, he owes thanks for friendly notice 
and an instructive correspondence on the Indian lan- 
guages. To Professor Raffinesque, also of Philadel- 
phia, he is indebted for an acquaintance with some 
valuable books and communications of great interest. 
The literary generosity of this gentleman must be ap- 
preciated by the fact, that he has at this very time, 
nearly ready for the press, an extensive work upon 
the aboriginal history of America. 


Though it is now above three hundred years since philo- 
sophers began to speculate upon the condition and history of 
aboriginal America, we may still without any presumption, 
state that the subject remains involved nearly in all the ob- 
scurity that originally pertained to the investigation. 

So different are the men and animals of America, and so 
insulated is their position when contrasted with all other 
parts of the globe, that it has hitherto seemed impossible, 
either to explain the anomalies that exist, or to ascertain any 
material facts that connect the history of the two continents 
together. That this statement does no injustice to the la- 
bours of preceding writers on the origin of the Indians of 
America, is very evident; for the editors of Encyclopedias 
and such other works, who have taken a view of the whole 
range of theory and dissertation as exhibited in the researches 
of original writers, universally acknowledge their inability 
to come to any positive conclusion. 

When we consider how much has been written upon this 
subject, it might almost be supposed, that the original history 
of America is involved in such circumstances of obscurity 
and perplexity, as to leave little room to anticipate a solution 
of those difficulties that have hitherto opposed insuperable 
obstacles to philosophical scrutiny. Yet, if we advert to the 
great ignorance that has prevailed concerning the history of 
aboriginal America, it ought to occasion no surprise that 
mere theoretic writers on the origin of the American Indians, 
have failed to solve a difficult problem which they cannot 
be said to have fairly comprehended themselves. 


As we cannot perceive any advantage to the reader in tlic 
introduction of exploded or insufficient theories, we forbear 
to enumerate them; they do not impart any correct infor- 
mation concerning the aborigines of America, and they have 
entirely failed to shew either their origin, or the manner by 
which they reached this continent. 

But notwithstanding the failure of theoretic writers upon 
this subject, we have not been discouraged to attempt the 
investigation upon philosophical principles. It certainly 
must be within the influence of some solution, whether it be 
to prove a connexion with other nations or people of the 
eastern continent, or whether it be that America stands alone 
and unconnected with the history of all other parts of the 

It is to discover the truth alone that we have undertaken 
this research: and the course to be pursued, seems naturally 
that we first ascertain, what was the condition of America 
prior to the discovery of Columbus. After having correct 
views upon this subject, we can then examine the difficulties, 
whether moral or physical, that are involved in the origin 
or in the location of man and the animals. By such methods 
of investigation we may obtain results, which are capable of 
being generalized into conclusions both consistent and satis- 

According to such views the following pages have been 
written, and we shall now commence our research with the 
subject naturally requiring our first consideration; namely, 
the physical characters of the men of America. 






We propose in this chapter to lay before the reader, 
some account of the physical characters of the Aborigines 
of America, such as they appeared to the first discoverers of 
the continent; not only in their really natural conformation, 
but also in those peculiarities of appearance, which, from 
perverted ideas of beauty, they either inflicted on their bo- 
dies, or forced them to assume, while the system was in a 
growing state, and susceptible of such vicious impressions. 

Whatever may be peculiar in the appearance of the Ame- 
rican Indians, we cannot refer it to any osteological differ- 
ence between them, and any other variety of the human 
family, neither as respects the formation of the cranium, 
nor physiognomical construction of the countenance; and 
it is a matter of surprise that physiological naturalists, not- 
withstanding the avowed uncertainty of their osteological 
classification, should continue to make use of so imperfect a 
system. The numerous anomalies noted by them in the 
form of the scull, alone is sufficient to set their classification 
aside; for they most distinctly admit, that all their varie- 
ties of national formation are found in each of the different 
races they enumerate, and to such an extent, that they can 
only say at last, in justification of their theoretic views, that 
these variations do not occur so often, as to destroy the ge- 
neral characteristic of the particular conformation- But 


their numerous exceptions make the system so vague and 
undefined, that we are constrained to ahandon it, as a system 
of natural classification. 

It must be acknowledged, nevertheless, that there is a cer- 
tain physiognomic character of feature, that enables us, at 
first sight, to distinguish other nations from ourselves, and 
often from other foreigners, and few it is presumed who 
have not made this observation, without even thinking of 
scientific classification. But after some attention to this 
matter, we rather think that the method by which we recog- 
nize foreigners, is not so much from any difference in fea- 
tures, as from the general air and carriage of the body, the 
dress, and moral expression of the countenance. Thus it is, 
a well bred man can be discovered even in the most insigni- 
ficant action of common life. The habitual politeness of the 
French gentleman, shews itself remarkably among a society 
of Englishmen, where they are not polished by service in 
the army, or attendance at court; and we would recognize 
the sober dignified Spaniard from a Frenchman, by the ob- 
servation of a few moments. The Hollander, or German, 
may be grave and serious, but they want the manner and 
dignified courtesy which belong to the Castillian. A mo- 
derate acquaintance with different nations, will soon teach 
us their characteristic air and manner, when free and unre- 
strained in their intercourse. But I very much doubt, if 
individuals of these different nations were seated together, 
without speaking or moving, whether the most practised 
eye could distinguish in them, any thing peculiar or dif- 
ferent from ourselves. 

In the physiognomic engravings of different nations, given 
in physiological works, which seem to strike the eye with 
the appearance of great differences, it is really the head 
dress and clothing, that enables us to recognize the nations 
whom they are intended to represent. Thus, the turbaned 
head shews the Turk; the head adorned with feathers, an 
American, &c. But if the coiffure be changed or taken 
away from each, though there may be different moral ex- 
pressions of countenance, none would perceive any national 
peculiarity. This circumstance continually deceives the 
traveller among foreign nations, who happens to be unaware 
of the effect of costume. 

The peculiar expression of countenance said to belong to 
the American race, as far as we have been able to ascertain 
it, is referrible to those moral causes, vvhich operate every 
where in producing physiognomic expression. Where the 


mind is cultivated, or where intellect and the passions have 
scope, where courtesy, humanity, or enthusiasm prevails, 
the varied emotions of the soul occasion a mobility of fea- 
ture, which continually reflects more or less of what is pas- 
sing in the inmost recesses of the heart; and this circum- 
stance gives the intellectual physiognomy so apparent in ci- 
vilized nations. But where the mind is hardly ever exer- 
cised, except in the means of circumventing inferior ani- 
mals, and where nothing intellectual is perhaps ever ex- 
cited, the features assume a fixed, grave, and even stern ex- 
pression, according to the peculiar temper and feeling of the 
individual, who perhaps expresses no passions of the mind, 
except it may be grave complacency when animal wants are 
satisfied, or rage, when offended. Such we consider the ge- 
neral character of the Indian countenance, not differing 
from that of any other people who may be brought up under 
similar circumstances. The African, equally ignorant and 
barbarous, is generally more cheerful, because he is more of 
an agriculturist. His wants are more easily supplied, and 
the satisfaction he feels he has more opportunity of display- 
ing. But coeteris paribus, I think it will be found as 
stated above, that barbarity of manners induces the same 
expression of countenance. 

Systematic writers have also considered the native tribes 
of America, as a fifth class of the human species, under the 
distinct term of the "Copper Coloured Race." To this 
term we have much to object, not only as respects the Ame- 
ricans, but other nations, from whom it seems to us, they 
have been improperly separated by this theoretic distinc- 
tion. In order to have a correct understanding of this sub- 
ject, we should be told what is the copper colour, for that 
metal has several very different hues. Any person who in- 
spects a large quantity of copper coin before it has been 
much handled, may perceive eight or ten shades of coloiii-, 
not only rising to an ashen yellow, but also deepening to a 
darkish blue. That some of these varied tints, may to a 
certain degree resemble the general complexion of the Ame- 
rican Indians, I am not disposed to deny altogether; but if 
the colour of copper, as usually seen in sheets or other ma- 
nufactures, is assumed as the tint, it is at variance with all 
the observations we have been able to make. The word ap- 
plied to the human complexion is ill chosen, for the mind 
always associates with it the idea of metallic lustre, which 
the skin is incapable of assuming. Even cinnamon colour 
is objectionable, unless a more than commonly pale sneri 


men of that article is furnished. This I assert from some 
personal observation among the Chippeways, Pottawotlo- 
mes, &c.; and that other American Indians are not character- 
istically of this copper colour, may be reasonably inferred, 
not only from the descriptions given by more recent travel- 
lers, but also from finding the same term, copper colour, ap- 
plied to natives of the South sea, and certain of the Asiatic 
and African tribes. 

The term, I believe, was first employed, to describe the 
complexion of the American Indians; and it is presumable 
was given by superficial observers, who were deceived by 
the faded marks of red paint, so universally used among 
them, and which is hardly ever so much worn off, as not to 
leave a reddish tinge on their brown faces. But the hands, 
legs, &c. do not exhibit this complexion. However the 
term has now become so current, that all navigators and tra- 
vellers use it specifically, and by this means we shall be en- 
abled to establish our point, perhaps not directly, that the 
Americans are not copper coloured, but we shall be able to 
shew that so many other nations are described of the same 
complexion, that it must cease to be considered the distinc- 
tion of the American race. By this circumstance we shall 
be able to unite the American Indians, again to those, from 
whom they have been inconsiderately separated by this fan- 
ciful distinction. To this end we adduce the following au- 
thorities, which will shew that the term "copper coloured" 
has been applied very widely to other nations than the 

Hainan Islanders on the coast of China, ^'copper colour.'^ 
(Grosier in Winterbotham's Hist, of China, i. 127.) 

Inhabitants of Disappointment Islands, "deep copper co- 
lotir."" (Hawksworth's Voy. i. 114.) 

Malays of Timor, "r/ee/j copper colour." (Cartaret in 
Hawksworth, i. 445. Peron and Le Suer, i. 144.) 

Nicobar Islanders, "copper colour.'^ (Asiat. Research, 
iii. 151.) 

Nassau or Poggy Islanders, ''of a light brown, or copper 
colour, like the Malays." (Asiat. Research, vi. 83.) 

Magindinao Mahometans, "deep copper colour.'' (Mears' 
Voyage, i. 65.) 

Guam natives, "copper coloured like other Indians.'' 
(Dampier, i. 297.) 

Bashee Islanders, "dark copper colour." (Dampier, i. 

Free Wills Islands, natives, "Indian copper colour.'^ 
(Cartaret in Hawksworth, i. 445.) 


Lagoon Islands, natives, ^^copper colour.'''' (Cartarel in 
Havvksworth, ii. 80.) 

Friendly Islands, natives, ^'■copper colour.''^ (Cook's 
Voyage to South Pole, i. 217.) 

Toubouai, "stout copper coloured people." (Cook's 
Voyage to North Pole, ii. 6. 

Gambier's Islands, natives, '■Hight copper colour.^'* 
(Mission. Voyage, 115, 117.) 

DuflPs Group, ^^copper colour.^'' Mission. Voyage, 291.) 

Tucker's Island, one of the Caroline Islands, "dark 
copper.^'' (Mission. Voyage, 291.) 

Lord Howe's Group, ^^dark copper.''^ (Hunter's Voyage, 

Duke of York's Islands, "light copper.'''' (Hunter's 
Voyage, 233.) 

Tench's Group, ^Hight copper colour.^^ (Lieut. King in 
Hunter, 42.) 

New Hollanders, some black, others '■^copper or Malay 
colour. ^^ (Collin's New South Wales, 359.) 

Washington Islands, ^^copper colour, and some fairer." 
Com. Porter^ s Journal, ii. 14, 62. 

Laplanders, '^copper colour ed.^^ (Clark's Travels in 
Scandinavia, ix. 486, 506, 508, 540.) 

Recent discoveries have made us acquainted with nations 
distinguished by the term copper coloured, extending into 
central Africa as far at least as Lake Tchad. These people 
of various tribes are distinguished by Denham and Clapper- 
ton, as being copper coloured, clear copper colour, deep cop- 
per, dingy copper, &c. See Denham's Journal, 30, 56, 88, 
131, 134, 136, 162, and Clapperton 58, &c. 

Malte Brun, Geog. book 69, designates the Sognies bor- 
dering on the Zaire, as "copper coloured.'' 

Thus has this vague term been extended by navigators 
and travellers over a great part of the earth; and if it be 
considered at all accurate in one case, it must be so in others; 
and its universality will effectually prevent our considering 
the American Indians, as being thus distinguished from other 
brown men. The preceding quotations from Dampier, 
Byron, Mears, and Commodore Porter, who were accus- 
tomed to the sight of American Indians, shew the evident 
resemblance in complexion, between them and the natives of 
the Indian and Pacific oceans, be the colour what it may; 
and their general resemblance to brown men, of other parts 
of the world, may be directly inferred, from Volney's and 
Humboldt's observations on this particular subject. The for- 


mer remarks, {View of the U. States, 364,) "At Vin- 
cennes, (on the Wabash) and at Detroit, I met with Indians 
that reminded me of the Bedouins and Egyptian Fellahs; 
in the hue of their skin, quality of hair, and in many other 
circumstances they were alike." Humboldt says, (Polit. 
Essay, i. 115,) "the analogy between the Mongol and 
American races, is particularly evident in the colour of the 
skin and hair, in the defective beard, high cheek bones, and 
in the direction of the eyes. We cannot refuse to admit, 
that the human species does not contain races resembling 
one another more than the Malays, Mongols, Mantcheaux, 
and Americans."* 

The few Malays, or Maccassars, that I have seen, bear so 
general a resemblance to our northern Indians, that it is not 
easy to say in what respects they differ. At most, it cannot 
he more than in a pallor of complexion, which naturally 
ensues from a residence in tropical climates, and which can 
be easily appreciated by any one, who has an opportunity of 
contrasting the complexion of Europeans or Anglo Ameri- 
cans when thus exposed, with those of the same race who in- 
habit dry and healthy situations of the temperate zone. 
Mr. Marsden appears to have suggested the reason of any 
difference of complexion between the Malays and the Ame- 
rican Indians, when he observes, that the Rejangs who con- 
stitute a considerable portion of the natives of Sumatra, 
"have a complexion properly yellow, wanting that red 
tinge, that constitutes a tawny or copper colour.'' {Hist. 
Sumatra, 40.) I infer from this, that were the Rejangs to 
live in a more cool and temperate region, they would ac- 
quire this reddish tinge, or, in fact, healthy complexion of 
which it is indicative, and which would then constitute ihem 
a copper coloured people in the ordinary use of this word. 

We consider, therefore, that the colour of the American 
Indians in general is a brown; differing in intensity with va- 
rious tribes, according to various localities; but that it is al- 
most impossible to say what that brown colour principally 
resembles. The cinnamon, is in our apprehension, the 
nearest approach to it; though still too inaccurate for gene- 

* The Baron, it is true, says, "these features of resemblance do not con- 
stitute an identity of race." We are not concerned with any theory, that 
one may see proper to establish upon these facts; but it is strikingly appa- 
rent that the very slight if not fanciful shades of difference, between the 
American and Mongol races, which the Baron goes on to enumerate, do not 
separate the two in any equal degree, with what the analogies Avhich he has 
enumerated tend to unite them; and which are those oi skin, hair, eyes, and 
osteologkal character of face. 


ral comparison. Under these circunristances, it seems most 
correct, simply to use the general term, brown men; who 
will thus constitute an intermediate class, between the white 
and negro races. These three complexions being distinctly 
admitted, all other modifications of complexion can be ac- 
counted for by their intermixtures, where the variation of 
colour is too great to be referred to climate, local situation, 
and state of civilization; which it may be presumed do ex- 
ercise a partial influence on the skin. 

There is undoubtedly a great similarity in the appearance 
of the Indians of America to each other, except in a few re- 
markable instances to be noticed in their proper place: yet 
there are also various shades of difference among them, 
shewing the impossibility of reducing them all under one 
general class of complexion. Though their colour is com- 
monly assumed to be that of copper, we find travellers con- 
stantly remarking the variations of hue among different 
tribes, as for instance: 

The Indians near the sources of Peace river, are of a 
swarthy yellow complexion. {Mackenzie's Voyage, 195.) 

The Cherokees are of a lighter colour than adjacent In- 
dians. {Bartotv's New Views, p. xlv.) 

The Mandans and Gros-ventres have a light complexion, 
and hair inclining to chestnut. ( Topog. Description of 
Ohio, 152.) 

"The complexion of the Quapaws, like that of the Choc- 
taws and Creeks, is dark, and destitute of any thing like the 
cupreous tinge." {NutaWs Travels, 83.) 

The Mexican complexion, according to Clavigero, is olive. 
{History of Mexico, i. 104.) 

Herrera v. 11, says, "the women of the Chiachiapoyos 
of Peru, were so much whiter and more graceful than other 
Indians, that they were sought after by the Incas." 

Baron Humboldt remarks, "if the uniform tint of the 
skin be more coppery and redder toward the north, it is, on 
the contrary, among the Chaymas, of a deep brown, in- 
clining to tawny. The denomination of copper coloured 
men, {rouges cuivres) could never have originated in 
equinoctial America to designate the natives." {Personal 
Narrative, iii. 223.) 

• Gumilla, {BescrijHion of the Orinoco, i. 107,) says, "the 
colour of the Indians on the borders of the Orinoco, is so 
diversified, that he could say nothing of it under one gene- 
ral head." 

The Guaycurus of Brazil, "are of a darker tint than cop- 
per,'' {Southey^s HisL nf Brazil, iii. 671) 


"The Charruas are more black than white, without any 
mixture of red." {Jizara Voyages^ ii. 8.) 

"The Guayanas, (a different people from the Guaranis) of 
Brazil and Paraguay, differ from all the Indians of those na- 
tions, by the lightness of their colour, and some of them 
have blue eyes." {Jizara Voyages, ii. 76.) 

Hitherto, we have confined our discourse to that portion of 
the American Indians, who may be strictly termed brown 
men; and we presume that in a general manner, we have 
established the fact, that there is a great variety of shades of 
complexion existing among them, the reason of which we 
shall not attempt to explain, even were the solution less dif- 
ficult than we apprehend to be the case. We shall now pro- 
ceed to describe other nations of America, of a very dif- 
ferent complexion, which being a matter not generally 
known, we feel a necessity of establishing by many proofs; 
and therefore may seem to overcharge our page with more 
extracts and quotations, than is agreeable to those who pre- 
fer the smoothness of an uninterrupted discourse. But the 
points we have to establish, are derived from the narratives 
of various travellers, who do not commonly express the 
same ideas with equal precision; and sometimes indeed dif- 
fer with each other. To ascertain the fact, therefore, it 
is necessar}^, that their various relations should be laid before 
us, that we may exercise a sound discrimination in forming 
our opinion. 

It has been long known that the Esquimaux, were in 
comparison with other Americans, of a white complexion; 
and this circumstance so far misled Dr. Robertson, that he 
conjectured they were the descendants of the Norwegians, 
who discovered Greenland in the year A. D. 982, and made 
some insignificant settlements there. It would be unneces- 
sary to disprove this opinion, for the Norwegians them- 
selves describe the Esquimaux already there before them, un- 
der the name of Skrwlingues* or dwarfish people; but we 
will attempt to shew what the complexion of the Esquimaux 
is, from the accounts of different travellers. 

The Greenlanders are described by Egede, of a dark 
tawny complexion, though some are pretty fair. 

Ellis {page 139,) says, their colour inclines to the Euro- 
pean white, rather than to the copper colour of the Ameri- 

Dobbs {Jiccount of Hudson's Bay, 50,) states, they have 
a white complexion, not copper coloured. 

*rennant's Arct. Zool Intigduction i. 64- See also Edinburgh Review, 
for June, 1818, 37. 


Kalm {Travels, ii. 263,) relates, the Esquimaux are al- 
most as white as Europeans. 

Capt. Lyon, [Journal, 224,) observes, the Esquimaux 
complexion previously washed, ''is not darker than that of 
a Portuguese; and such parts of the body as are constantly 
covered, do not fall short in fairness, to the generality of 
the natives of the Mediterranean." 

Capt. Parry (3af Voyage, 493,) says, ''the complexion of 
young persons among them is clear and transparent, scarcely 
a shade darker than a deep brunette." 

From the above accounts, the character of the Esquimaux 
as a white nation seems to be clearly established; and we 
proceed to shew that certain other people of America, are 
even more distinctly entitled to that appellation. These are 
chiefly the natives of Prince William and Nootka sounds, 
who have been visited by several navigators, whose de- 
scriptions we shall now transcribe. Capt. Dixon, {Voyage, 
171,) who was at Port Mulgrave has given the most explicit 
statement of this fact. He observes, "the natives are par- 
ticularly fond of painting their faces with a variety of co- 
lours, so that it is no easy matter to discover their real com- 
plexion; however, we prevailed on a woman, by persuasion 
and a trifling present to wash her face and hands, and the al- 
teration it made in her appearance absolutely surprised us; 
her countenance had all the cheerful glow of an English 
milk maid, and the healthy red which flushed her cheek, 
u^as even beautifully contrasted by the whiteness of her 
neck; her forehead was so remarkably clear, that the trans- 
lucent veins were seen meandering even in their minutest 
branches; in short, she was what would be reckoned hand- 
some in England." The English translator of La Pey- 
rouse's Voyage, seems to think this account of Dixon's, not 
confirmed by the observations of that navigator, but there 
does not appear to me any reason for such an opinion. This 
last voyager speaks of these Indians as they appeared to 
him, covered with dirt, paint, and fish oil; and Capt. Dixon 
describes the natural complexion when cleansed and washed. 
The French editor, however, confirms the account of the lat- 
ter by the relation of Don Maurelle, who says, "several of 
the women among them, if better dressed, might dispute 
charms with the most beautiful Spanish women." 

La Peyrouse himself, {Voyage, iii. 144,) though he says 

the colour of the natives at Port des Francais is very 

brown, owing to continual exposure to the air, yet adds, 

"but their children at the time of birth are as white as ours." 



Now, as the opinion that Indians and negroes are born white^ 
and change colour afterwards has been deservedly exploded, 
we may rest satisfied that those who are born white, will 
continue of that complexion. 

The relation of Marchand, {Voyage, i. 145,) confirms 
whatever maybe wanting in that of La Peyrouse; for it is 
there said, "several of these Indians scarcely differ from Eu- 
ropeans of the labouring class when their skin is only a little 
tanned. Of their hair, some is flaxen, some auburn, or black, 
long and curling." La Peyrouse, (iii. 204,) says ''chestnut 
coloured hair is by no means unfrequent among them." 

Capt. Cook observes, "we could never positively deter- 
mine their colour; (at Nootka) they being incrusted with 
paint and dirt, though in particular cases, when these were 
well rubbed off, the whiteness of the skin appeared almost 
to equal that of Europeans, though rather of that pale effete 
cast, which distinguishes those of our southern nations. 
Their children, whose skins had never been stained with 
paint, equalled ours in whiteness." {Cook's Voyage, New 
Hemisphere, ii. ^03.) 

Sebastian Vizcaino says, at Sta. Catalina on the N. W. 
coast, that "the boys and girls were of a complexion white 
and red." {Burney's South Sea Discoveries, ii. 248.) 

Finally; the description given by Mears of the people of 
Nootka sound, {Voyage, ii. 39,) entirely accords with the 
preceding authorities. "At Nootka, ihe skin of the na- 
tives is white, and we have seen some of the women, when 
in a state of cleanliness, which is by no means a common 
sight, and obtained with difficulty, who not only possessed 
the fair complexion of Europe, but also features, that would 
have attracted notice for their delicacy and beauty in those 
parts of the world, where the qualities of the human form 
are best understood." 

The other localities of white nations, are in South America; 
and are thusnoticed byBaronHumboldt,andtheAbbeMolina. 

"In the forests of Guiana, especially near the sources of the 
Orinoco, are several tribes of a whitish complexion, the 
Guiacas, Guajaribs, and Arigues, of whom several robust 
individuals exhibiting no symptoms of asthenical malady, 
which characterises Albinos, have the appearance of true 
Mestizoes.* Yet these tribes have never mingled with Eu- 

* A Mestizo, according to this writer, is the son of a white and a native of 
copper colour: His colour is almost a pure white, and his skin of a peculiar 
transparency. If a Mestizo marry a white woman, the second generation dif- 
fers hardly in any thing from the European race. HumhoUWs Polit. Essay, i. 


ropeans, and are surrounded with other trihes of a dark 
brown hue." [Humboldt, Polit. Essay, i. lOS.) 

There is a tribe of Indians in the province of Baroa inChili, 
whose complexions are of a clear white and red, without 
any intermixture of the copper colour. {Hist. Chili, ii. 4.) 

Herrera, iv. 90, mentions, that in the Captaincy of Isleos 
in Brazil, is a certain race of vei^y ivhite Indians, of a gi- 
gantic stature, who spoke a language not understood, and 
who came there not long before A. 1). 152S. They are de- 
scribed as very cruel and cannibals, and I presume, are the 
same or a kindred race with the Aymores, who invaded Ba- 
hia in 1603. These last are described as being in manj'^ in- 
stances, both of men and women, of as fair complexion as 
the Germans. (Soicthey's Hist. Brazil, i. 389.) 

Skinner, [Present State of Peru, 269,) by accounts re- 
ceived from the Spanish missionaries, says, that the natural 
complexion of the Conivos, one of the Manoa tribes on the 
Maranon, might vie with that of the Europeans, were it 
not for exposure, stings of insects, &c. 

Dobrizhoffer, {Hist. Abipones, ii. 10,) says, that some 
of the Indians of Terra del Fuego are more than mode- 
rately white. 

Albinoes, have at all times been observed among the dif- 
ferent races of men. In America, however, they seem to 
have been assembled together in certain districts, in greater 
numbers than appears to have been noticed in any other 
part of the earth. The account given of them by Wafer, 
{Descrip. Isthmus of America, 107,) is a conspicuous 
instance, and so well known, that it seems unnecessary to 
repeat his relation. Indeed, we should scarcely have no- 
ticed the Albino variety, had we not thought it of some lit- 
tle importance to preserve the memory of a Cherokee tra- 
dition, which seems to declare, that anciently there was some 
remarkable instances of this variety of men in Georgia or 
Louisiana, sufficiently numerous to be remembered in In- 
dian tradition. "The Cherokees say, that when they first 
arrived in the country they now inhabit, they found it pos- 
sessed by certain moon-eyed people, who could not see in 
the day." {Barton's New Views, xliv.) This is appa- 
rently though obscurel}'' substantiated by Alvaro Nunez, in 
his relation of the expedition of Narvaez. {Purchas Pilg. 
iv. 1520.) "Some of the Indians brought many peo- 
ple before us, the greater part whereof were squint-eyed, 
and others of the same people are blind, whereat we greatly 


marvelled; they are well set and of good behaviour, and 
whiter than all the rest that we had seen until then." 

Though America possesses some dark brown men, ap- 
proaching to black, yet it has been almost universally be- 
lieved that there were no aboriginal blacks or negroes found 
on this continent. But from considering the peculiar cir- 
cumstances under which a black race was found in North 
America, I hold it more than probable that the common 
opinion is erroneous. Torquemada says, the Californians 
shewed no manner of surprize at the sight of some negroes 
that accompanied Viscanio on a voyage to this coast, A. D. 
1602. As I have never seen Torquemada's Monarquia In- 
diana, I can only quote from Vcnegas, {California.) ii. 
239,) who says from Torquemada, that when a negru was 
ordered to distribute some biscuit to the Californians at the 
bay of St. Barnabas, 'Hhe natives seemed greatly pleased at 
the sight of the negro, and signified to him, that they lived 
in friendship and correspondence with a people of his co- 
lour, and that not far from thence was a negro village." 

Torquemada undertakes to explain this remarkable cir- 
cumstance, by supposing that negroes had been left there by 
some ship from the Philippine Islands. But as he does not 
quote the time when such an event had occured, we pre- 
sume it was a mere conjecture of his own, to explain an 
anomaly of which he had been previously ignorant; and at 
first we were disposed to think the supposition plausible: 
but as it was found, on extending our researches, that the 
negro character of the Indians on this coast, has been dis- 
tinctly remarked by various navigators, even of the present 
day, we deem it impossible that any few individuals, who 
were probably without women with them when left on this 
coast, could have been able to communicate their peculiar 
complexion and features to entire nations, even after a pe- 
riod of above two hundred years. ' The subject however is 

* One of tlie very first voyages to California was made by Cortez in 1535, 
who was accompanied by four hundred Spaniards, and three hundred negro 
slaves, he coasted both sides of tlie gulf of California, and returned safely 
to Acapulco. {IlumboliWs Pol. Essnij, ii. 220.) In this expedition, is the ear- 
liest account we have of negroes having been sent to that part of America, 
but there is no reason to think any of them were left on shore, as they were 
valuable property. 

About seventy years after this voyage of Cortez, the voyage of Viscano 
described by Torquemada look place; apparently much too short a time for 
negro villages to have been i)u lit, with whose inhabitants the natives had 
formed leagues of friendship; even if it were proved, which it has not been, 
that sucii persons had been wrecked or left ashore about these periods of 


Still in obscurity, and belongs to that terra incognita of 
America, laying between the rivers Columbia and Gila. The 
authorities I have been able to examine respecting the pre- 
sent negro appearance of the Indians in that region, are as 

The colour of the Indians of the Californian missions, 
seen by La Peyrouse, {Voyage, ii. 197, 212,) "very 
nearly approaches that of the negroes whose hair is not 
woolly; and in another place, the "colour of these Indians 
which is that of negroes." 

Langsdorf, who visited St. Francisco on the coast of Cali- 
fornia, confirms the observations of La Peyrouse; for he 
says, [Voyage, 440,) the Indians there, "are of a very dark 
complexion, approaching to black; they have large project- 
ing lips, and broad flat negro like noses; indeed many of 
their features, as well as their physiognomy, and almost 
their colour, bear a strong resemblance to the negroes: their 
hair, however, is long and strait." 

From the plates in Choris Voyages, of which I had but 
a slight examination, they appear to resemble very nearly 
the blacks of Hindostan, of whom a few Mahratas only, 
have fallen under my personal observation. But it is well 
known that many of the Hindu race, are only distinguished 
by straightness of hair from the Africans, for they are not 
less black. This circumstance has been noticed by Strabo, 
as the distinction between the two races. As we cannot ad- 
mit for a moment, that these American blacks were ever 
driven by stress of weather across the Pacific ocean to Cali- 
fornia; unless it be proved they are the descendants of ne- 
groes left by the Spaniards, it will follow of necessity, 
that they have been settled in America from the earliest ages. 

In another part of America, if reliance can be placed 
upon the correctness of the relation, a race of blacks were 
seen at so early a period of our history, that it seems im- 
possible to avoid the conclusion that they were aboriginal. 
Peter Martyr, {2>d Decade, ^j«^e 97,) in describing the 
journey of Balboa across the Isthmus of Darien, A. D. 
1511, gives the following history: "There is a region not 
above two days' journey from Quarequa, in which they 
found only blackamoors; and those exceeding fierce and 
cruel. "^ The circumstance of finding them there, he at- 
tempted to explain, by the conjecture that they were Ethi- 
opians, who had crossed the Atlantic to I'ob the country, and 
that after having been shipwrecked, they had been com- 
pelled by the natives to take refuge in the mountains. But 


all this is pure guess work, which we shall not attempt to 
disprove, for it is not more plausible than the supposition 
that they were aboriginal. It is only interesting to us to 
inquire, whether the fact really be as represented by the 
historian of Balboa, or whether he may not have been de- 
ceived by some external filth or paint, whereby these peo- 
ple were remarkable from other Indians. On this subject I 
have nothing to produce, as no other account of this parti- 
cular part of America, that I know of, mentions the circum- 
stance, which perhaps has arisen from the belief, that these 
blacks v^^ere descendants of the runaway negroes, which the 
infamous slave trade, had brought to tropical America at a 
very early period. 

If I am not much mistaken, however, we shall be able to 
shew, that the relation of Peter Martyr, concerning the 
blackamoors, as he calls them, seen by Balboa, was substan- 
tially correct: for we learn from Stevenson, [Travels in 
South America, ii. 387,) the following singular facts, 
which we shall quote at length. "The natives of Esmeral- 
das, Rio Verde, and Atacames," (Republic of Columbia,) 
*'are all Zambos, apparently a mixture of negroes and In- 
dians; indeed the oral tradition of their origin is, that a ship 
having negroes on board arrived on the coast; and that 
having landed, they murdered a great number of the male 
Indians, kept their widows and daughters and laid the foun- 
dation of the present race. If this were the case, and it is 
not very improbable, the whole of the surrounding country 
being peopled with Indians, it produces a striking instance 
of the facility with which an apparently different tribe of 
human beings is produced; for the present Esmeraldenos 
are very different in their features, hair, colour, and 
shape, to the Chino, or offspsring of a negro or Indian; 
these are commonly short and lusty, of a very deep copper 
colour, thick hair, neither lank nor curled, small eyes, 
sharpish nose, and well shaped mouth; whereas the Esme- 
raldenos are tall and rather slender, of a lightish black co- 
lour, different from that called copper colour; have soft 
curly hair, large eyes, nose rather flat, and thick lips, pos- 
sessing more of the Negro than of the Indian, &c. Tlie 
language of the Esmeraldenos is also entirely different from 
the Quichua, which is the general language of the Indians; 
it is rather nasal, and appears very scanty of words, &c. " 

It is very singular, that so intelligent a writer as Steven- 
son, could listen to the story, that the black natives of Ata- 
cames, &c. could have descended from a ship load of ne- 


groes, who had in some immemorial time arrived on this 
coast: for every word of comment or explanation that he 
has made, is in direct opposition to such an hypothesis; and 
if the offspring of a Negro and Indian, be entirely different 
from the natives of the Atacames, Esmeraldos, &c. by what 
imaginable rule can we refer the origin of these people to 
such progenitors! The whole legend is ridiculous, and has 
been no doubt a Spanish or Indian suggestion to explain the 
singularity of the fact, concerning which they had no other 
method of explication. 

I know not whether the population to the northward,- 
partake of this black complexion of the Atacames, &c. but 
these last are now about four hundred miles fi'om Quarequa, 
where Balboa is reported to have seen a similar complexion. 
This distance however is immaterial, the direction or course 
being the very one, to which an emigration would naturally 
be made, if such took place to the southward. Or their 
more northern brethren may have been exterminated in war 
with other tribes, or may yet be observed in those regions, 
if some intelligent traveller could visit the country. 

Juarros, {HisL Giiativiala, 34G,) in describing the com- 
plexion of the people of that province, which almost termi- 
nates in the country visited by Balboa, says expressly, that 
some of the Indians there are white, others black, and others 
red or copper colour, and seemingly considers them original 
nations by this enumeration; for he makes no observation on 
these peculiarities of complexion. I presume, that in this 
instance he made no mistake from their external appearance, 
for he was aware, {page 194,) that the Indians did paint 
themselves black, to protect themselves from the stings of 
musquitoes. * 

There is another circumstance connected with the history 
of blacks in this part of the world, which it may be proper 
to introduce in this place, be it worth what it may; "the 
people of Hispaniola informed Columbus, {Herrera, i, 374,) 
that there was to the S. and S. E. a black people, who 
pointed the heads of their javelins with metal, &c." It is 
not easy to imagine the natives of St. Domingo had any ac- 
quaintance with the people of the Isthmus, or even of those 
of Guatimala, though it is not impossible. If this could be 
deemed probable, there will be little difficulty in consider- 
ing the fact, well established, that there were blacks in these 

* Juarros says, that July 2d, 1594, Philip the Second directed, that a minute 
detail of all circumstances regarding the native inhabitants, should be 
transmitted to him, &c. This document probably is yet in the archives of 
Simancas, and may settle this interesting fact, if access can be gained there. 


parts of the continent, who had extended themselves both 
north and south of the Isthmus of Darien. 

The American Indians, compared with Europeans, have 
but little beard, and it is almost universally their practice to 
eradicate it, as well as all other hair from their bodies. Some 
even plucked out their eyebrows and eyelashes, as was pret- 
ty commonly the case with the natives of Brazil and Para- 
guay. {Guinilla, Hist. Oroioqiie, i. 105,201. Jlzara, 
ii. 124, 164.) This paucity of beard is not peculiar to the 
Americans, the Tartar and Malay tribes are equally defi- 
cient, as well as the African race. This is now so well un- 
derstood that it is unnecessary to notice it further. 

But if travellers and naturalists, have formerly been wil- 
ling to consider the American Indians as being generally 
beardless, they have been highly liberal to the Esquimaux 
in this particular. Charlevoix {Travels, 106,) says, "they 
have a beard so thick up to their eyes that it is difficult to 
distinguish any features of their face.'" Ellis, more mode- 
rate, describes them, {page 139,) as having beards sometimes 
long and bushy. Dobbs {Jicct. Hudson's Bay, 50,) 
agrees with Charlevoix in saying "they have beards up to 
their eyes." 

Egede, however, does not describe the Greenlanders, who 
are undoubtedly of the Esquimaux stock, as being distin- 
guished by this peculiarity, and Capts. Ross and Parry do 
not mention the Esquimaux seen by them, as having other 
than thin beards, though they permit it to grow. We must 
therefore consider the statements of Charlevoix and Dobbs 
to be exaggerations, derived from hasty and inconsiderate 
observation, in which they were misled by the contrast af- 
forded by the nations around. The real fact appears to be, 
that the one people permitted the beard to grow, while 
others in general carefully plucked it out; but that naturally 
there is little if any diflerence between them in the quantity. 
In like manner we must account, most probably, for other in- 
stances of bearded people in America, such as the Yabipias 
Indians near the river Gila, and the nation called Guamos 
on the Orinoco, mentioned by Gumilla, i. 201. That these 
nations are only called bearded from contrast, may be further 
inferred from the instances occasionally remarked throughout 
America, of individuals, among beardless tribes, being de- 
scribed with large beards, when whim or caprice of some 
kind or other, had induced them to cherish its growth. 

But it is not entirely true, that the American Indians pluck 
out their beard; for in addition to the above instances, we 


must mention that the Miges, a nation of Mexico wear long 
beards, which Herrera, {Hist. Amer. iv. 125,) observes was 
a rare custom. 

La Peyrouse fays, {Voy. ii. 198,) that some of the In- 
dians of California, had beards large enough* to have been 
of importance in Turkey, or the vicinity of Moscow. 

Throughout both N. and S. America, the natives with few 
exceptions, pricked black or blue figures into their skins; a 
custom that has prevailed among almost every rude nation in 
the world, and in such numerous instances, that it is not 
worth while to quote authorities. 

Very generally in N. America, and also in Peru, and Bra- 
zil, the natives cut the outer edge of the ear loose, to which 
they attached such a variety and weight of ornaments, as 
sometimes, literally to stretch this partially detached portion 
down to the shoulder. They also perforated the cartilage of 
the nose, in which they wore rings, reeds, stones, feathers, 

Many nations of the eastern continent disfigured them- 
selves in like manner. The natives of the Fidgi islands, 
{Mariner, 212,) and those of Bali, adjoining Java, [Craw- 
furd's Ind. Archip. i. 218,) stretched their ears in like man- 
ner to an enormous degree. 

Many tribes flattened the forehead by artificial compres- 
sion; they laid the young infant on its back, with the head 
in a hole made to receive it, and then applied a small bag of 
sand or other weight, on the frontal bone, until it more or 
less assumed the desired flatness. Sometimes they accom- 
plished the purpose by binding two flat boards tight on the 
head. This custom prevails among the nations on the west- 
ern slope of the Rocky mountains, and was once remarka- 
ble among the Choctaws, and also the Caraibs of the West 
India islands. Some Peruvian and Brazilian tribes, also 
adopted this preposterous fashion. 

The Arrowacks, who inhabited the larger West India 
islands at the time of the discovery by Columbus, flattened 
the head downward in the direction of the spine. [Ed- 
ward's TV. Indies, i. 74.) They appear to have been alone 
in this practice, according to our inquiries. 

The natives of Asia and of the Indian islands, in certain 
instances, compressed the forehead like the Caraibs. This 
was done by the people of Arrakan in the Burman empire, 

* It is most probable, that the figures of bearded men observed in various 
Mexican antiquities, are connected with the history of this people, and the 
Yabipais, and Californians. 


[Mod. Univ. Hist. vi. 127,) and several Islanders of the 
Indian Archipelago. {Craivfiird's Lid. Jirchij). i. 218. 

Tlie Caraibs bound strong ligatures round the legs of their 
children, that they might enlarge the calf, and raise the flesh 
in ridges from the ancles to the top of the thighs. This 
practice was observed by Columbus on his first voyage, 
(Peter Martyr, 303.) It is also mentioned by Gumilla, 
[Hist. deV Orinoque, i. 196,) as practiced by that people 
in his lime. 

Many of the T3razilian tribes cut holes in their cheeks 
and noses, in which they inserted coloured stones, pieces of 
wood, feathers, &c. {Ulloct, i. 395 — Jizara passim.) 

But the most extraordinary perversion of nature, was 
practised among those nations who attempted to exhibit 
either two mouths, or else inserted in the transverse slit that 
made this second mouth, a piece of wood carved like the 
bowl of a soup spoon, which projected out with the cavity 
upwards, as if to catch what might drop down whilst eating. 
This disgusting ornament was much used especially by wo- 
men, on the N. W. coast. See Cook, Vancouver, Peyrouse, 
Dixon, &c. 

The same custom prevailed in great measure throughout 
the Brazilian nations, {^Izara passim.) It was observed 
on the sea coast by Cabral, who describes the natives as 
having the lower lip cut like a second mouth, and wearing a 
stone in it, or piece of wood; which in some instances hung 
down like a tongue. {Azara, ii. 150. Southey^s Brazil, 
i. 221.) 

Some Indians near Buenos Ayres, according to Gumilla, 
{Hist, de P Orinoqiie, i. 201,) cut the mouth from ear to 

Dampier, [Voyage, i. 32,) describes the natives of the 
Pearl islands, (Margueritte,) wearing a piece of tortoise 
shell passed through the lower lip by a round hole, and 
which hung over the chin like a beard. Cortez describes 
the grandees of Zcmpoallan with their under lips hanging on 
their chins, from the weight of ornaments thereto appended. 
[Gomara in Purchas, iii. 119.) The Miztecas used the 
same disfigurement. [Herrera, iv. 260.) And the Mexi- 
cans adorned some of their divinities after this fashion. 
[Herrera, iii. 205.) Cabeza de Vaca, observed the Floridian 
Indians to have holes in the under lip, through which they 
thrust pieces of reed. [Herrera, iv. 33.) 

I have met with no instances of any other than Ameri- 
cans thus slitting or boring the lower lip, except the one 


mentioned by Major Denham in (he relation of his journey 
to Central Africa. He observes, {page 42,) that "the Mus- 
gow women wear a silver stud in the lower lip,* which not 
only causes the loss of the two under front teeth, but drags 
the lip down on the chin, and gives a frightful and disgust- 
ing appearance to the face." 

In general the American Indians did not interfere with na- 
ture by disfiguring their teeth. The few instances we have 
observed of such a practice, are as follow: 

Herrera, {Hist. Amer. iv. 174,) relates, the women of 
Yucatan, "formerly used to saw their teeth." 

Some of the natives of Peru, like the natives of New 
Holland and the Sandwich islands, knocked out their front 
teeth, {Garcllazo Royal Comment. 354.) Zarate, {Conq. 
Peru, lib. i. chap. 6,) says, some of the Indians near the 
Island of Puna, extracted all the teeth of the upper jaw! 
But this certainly must be a mistake, though founded proba- 
bly in a careless observance of a practice, like the one men- 
tioned by Garcilazo as above quoted. 

Our researches on the physical history of the Aborigines 
of America, have not enabled us to add any thing to the 
physiological history of man. Though we have admitted 
that climate and states of civilization might occasion some 
partial modifications, yet neither as respects their stature, 
physiognomy, or complexion, have we been able to discover 
any common principles, by which we can explain the diver- 
sities that exist in the human family. The discovery cer- 
tainly of a white race, and probably of one that is black in 
America, adjacent to each other, and surrounded by brown 
men on all sides, becomes irreconcileable with any theor}^, 
that supposes these different complexions to be consequent on 
physical causes. And when we connect these American ano- 
malies, with the existence of brown men in Africa, and 
black men in the islands of the Indian and Pacific oceans, 
who yet live under the same solar influence, and with simi- 
lar uncivilized institutions, we feel more and more reluctant 
to admit that these diversities have originated from partial 
causes. t Men divided into white, brown, and black, have 

*Diod. Sic. lib. iii. chap. i. mentions women in Ethiopia, who hang a brass 
ring at their lips. 

1 1 am fully aware of what has been written by many authors on this sub- 
ject, and am not unwilling to admit, that the diversities of human complexion 
may have originated from natural causes; but not that these effects have 
been produced in their present geographical situations, unless in the most 
partial manner. But it may be necessary to add, that there can be no ditii- 
culty in explaining certain difterences of complexion, varieties of hair,kc. 




existed from the earliest times of history, and they have at 
least to our knowledge, continued in those relative states, 
without ever departing from their established characters. 
The observation of Humboldt it would seem is absolutely 
correct, who remarks, "that notwithstanding the variety of 
climates, and elevations inhabited by the different races of 
men, nature never deviates from the models of which she 
• made selection thousands of years ago." {Polit. Essay j i. 

by the admixture of different coloured stocks, which in a manner may be 
almost infinite, as we know to be the case in the West Indies and our slave 
holding states. Our observations only apply to the white, brown, and black 
complexions, of the greatest intensity of hue. If we can detect the origin 
of these three, we can easily account for all the other modifications. 



We cannot undertake to give a particular account of the 
various languages spoken by the American Indians, for 
nothing can be more imperfect than the materials, that have 
been collected for this purpose. Those who seem to have 
employed themselves most on this part of our subject, con- 
found the understanding, when they enumerate twelve hun- 
dred and fourteen languages and dialects, as being spoken on 
this continent. If it be possible to ever reduce these to 
their original radicals, the task I apprehend is reserved for 
our posterity, as a century of labour will be barely sufficient 
for its accomplishment. In the first place, materials have 
not yet been even collected, from many extensive districts, 
and secondly, the least possible reliance can be placed in the 
vocabularies that have been hitherto made. This observa- 
tion may surprise those who have not been employed in 
similar researches; yet nothing is more true; for these com- 
parative vocabularies have been generally made by travellers, 
traders, and missionaries, who not only had an imperfect 
knowledge of the Indian languages, but were in great mea- 
sure, ignorant of the idiomatic peculiarities, by which the 
Indians express their thoughts. Thus, for instance, the 
Reverend Mr. Edwards, observes, *'if a Mohegan be asked 
what he calls the hand in his language, at the same time that 
you shew him your hand, he will reply Knisk, which is 
your hand; if you ask the same question, and point to his 
hand, he will answer Nnisk, my hand; and if you point to 
the hand of a third person, he will say Unisk, his hand,"" 
&c., and in this manner, any one of these words might 
find its way into a vocabulary, as the Indian word for the 
hand. This suppositious case of Mr. Edwards has been ve- 
rified in numerous instances. 

But besides such causes of error, there is another of still 
greater influence, which is thus related by a person well ac- 
quainted with Indian languages. Heckewelder observes, 
that he found himself under very great embarrassment, 



when he began to learn the Delaware language. If he 
pointed to a tree, and asked the Indians how they called a 
tree, they answered, oak, ash, maple, as the case might be, 
so that at last he found in his vocabulary more than a dozen 
words for tree. Thus we see, that the Indians, unlike civi- 
lized men, do not abstract or generalize their words, but al- 
ways use a specific appellation, or the possessive pronoun, 
or an adjective, in conjunction with the noun. Yet any of 
the combined words so used, are put in our vocabularies as 
the Indian term, for that particular substantive. We may 
have a good idea of the imperfection of the vocabularies so 
made, when we advert to the variety of adjectives that 
might be used; for instance, as applied to a tree, tall, low, 
thick, leafless, dead, green, hollow, young, old, &c. &c., 
in addition to the specific name, hickory, walnut, ash, &c. 
It is no doubt to the ignorance of this circumstance, that the 
Indians are represented to use such long names for simple 
substances. Again, the Indians incorporate among them- 
selves, individuals of other tribes, who necessarily impart to 
one language words or peculiarities of diction from another; 
and the principle of adoption or naturalization being extend- 
ed even to entire tribes, we may easily conceive, what an 
encroachment a different language or dialect, would make 
upon that of the adopting tribe.* 

The fact that the Indians incorporated nations and tribes 
among themselves, is too notorious to require proof; but 
that they continually introduce individuals, even in nume- 
rous instances into their respective societies, is not so well 
known but that some references will be useful. Henepin, 
{Travels, 2SS.) relates, that the Iroquois in an excursion 
against the Illinois, carried off eight hundred women and 
children. Lewis and Clark, {Travels, i, 86,) observe, "we 
here saw among the Sioux, twenty-five squaws and about 
the same number of children, who had been taken prisoners 
about two weeks ago." Smith, {Hist. Virginia, 4, 38,) 
mention instances, where the Indians preserved women as 
prisoners, while they killed the men. Bosnian, {Hist. 
Maryland,) relates an instance of the Susquehannocks car- 
rying off the wives of the Virginia Indians; and Belknap, 

»Mr. Heckevvelder bays, '-on the subject of numerals, I have had occasion 
to observe, they (the Indians,) sometimes djfler very much in languages 
derived from the same stock: which circumstances he was unable to ex- 
plain. It is accounted for by the observation to which tliis note is made, 
and may be further seen, in the comparative vocabulary of numbers in the 
New York Hist. Coll. iii. 230, where the numbers 3, 4, and 10, are alike in 
the Chikasaw and the Creek; while all the others are entirely different. 


{Hist. N. Hamp. i. 100,) relates a similar outrage among 
those of New England. Now, in all these instances, these 
individuals remained with their captors, as will be seen 
when we treat upon the subject of prisoners of war, and 
whatever language they used, was more or less introduced 
into the nation. Yet very few persons, if any, when mak- 
ing a vocabulary, inquire, whether the individual who com- 
municated words to them, was well instructed in the lan- 
guage, or not, or whether his mother, father, or himself, 
belonged originally to the tribe with whom they sojourn. 

If to this we add the fact, that there is no settled princi- 
ple of orthography, defining how these barbarous languages 
are to be expressed, and that English, French, Germans, 
Spaniards, &c.,* have made such vocabularies, we can rea- 
dily conceive the confusion that prevails among them, and 
how little reliance can be placed upon their labours. Mr. 
Heckewelder says, the vocabularies he has seen of the lan- 
guages with which he was well acquainted, abounded in ri- 
diculous mistakes. See also Dobrizhoffer, {Hist. Jihipones, 
ii, 159,) for similar observations. 

It seems also, to have been not unfrequently a practice 
with the Indians, to change their words from some supersti- 
tious notions. Dobrizhoffer, {Hist. Abipones, ii. 203,) has 
given us very express information on this subject. He says, 
"the Abipones do not like that any thing should remain, to 
remind them of the dead, hence appellative words, bearing 
any affinity with the names of the deceased, are presently 
abolished. During the first years that I spent among the 
Abipones, it was usual to say, Hegmalkcim kahamatek? 

* Even persons of the same nation give such different examples, that it 
seems impossible to reconcile them. See the Nootka numerals as given by 
Captains Cook and Dixon, Mai'chand, i. 380. 


' I .... Tsawack, . . Sorwock. 

II . • . Akkla, . . . Athlac. 

III .... Katsitsa, . . Catsa. 

IV ... Mo or Moo, . . Moo. 

V .... Sochah, . . Soutcha. 

VI .... Nofpo, . . . Noctpoo. 
Vfl .... Atslepoo, . . Atklapoo. 

VIII . . . Altaquolthl, . . Athlaquell. 

IX .... Tsawaquulthl, . Sarvacquell. 

X . . Haeeoo, . . Highhoo. 

We may well say with Azara, ii. 154, who, after stating the Machicuys of 
Paraguay were divided into nineteen tribes, observes, "il est impossible de 
prononcer les noms, et encore moins de les ecrire — ^je ne doute pas que si 
on les dictait a vingt personnes, toutes conviendraient qu'il est impossible 
de les ecrire; et si elles voulaient le faire chacune I'executerait d'une ma- 
niere difFerente. " 


When will there be a slaughtering of oxen? On account of 
the death of some Abipon, the word kahamatek was inter- 
dicted, and in its stead they were commanded by the voice 
of a cryer to say, Hegmalkam negerkata? The word 
nihirenek, a tiger, was exchanged for apanigehak. Peue, a 
crocodile, for kaeprhak and Kaama, Spaniards, for JRikil, 
because these words bore some resemblance to the names of 
Abipones, lately deceased. Hence it is that our vocabula- 
ries are so full of blots, &c." 

Roger Williams, {Kei/ to Indimi Language, 29,) makes 
a similar observation, that the Narragansets lay aside their 
names, as dead when either their sachems or neighbours die, 
who bore similar names. 

As Indian names are derived altogether from sensible ob- 
jects, or sensible qualities, it is easy to conjecture how much 
a language would be changed, from this preposterous cus- 
tom, during the lapse of a few centuries. 

The reader will perceive from the foregoing observations, 
how unsatisfactory must be the attempt, to give a view of 
the different American languages;* for the chief interest of 
!5uch a classification, is to determine how much they resem- 
ble each other, or how much they differ. Yet that we may 
not seem altogether to neglect this matter, we will subjoin 
the following general sketch of original languages, as far as 
we have been able to trace them, by the researches of other 

The whole arctic shore of North America, is possessed 
by the Esquimaux and Greenlanders, who speak an original 
tongue called the Karalit. 

From the confines of these last, and extending on the 
western side of the Mississippi as low as the Sascatchawine 
river, and on the eastern side of the Mississippi as low as the 
states of Georgia and Tennessee, the Algonquin, Chippe- 
way, or Delaware language, prevails in its numerous dia- 
lects. Included in this country, however, is the Wyandot, 
an original language, spoken by the nation of that name, 
and the once famous Iroquois or Six nations, who lived in 
the vicinity of Lakes Erie and Ontario. In all probability, 
there are other distinct languages west of the Mississippi, 
but of which we are as yet too ignorant to speak. 

*"It is impossible from any vocabularies now existing, to arrange the 
.American languages into their respective families, separating the primitive 
stocks from one another, and connecting the affiliated dialects; without a 
personal and intimate knowledge of the various tribes." North .•Vmerican 
Review, for January 1826 — 34. 


In Georgia and Tennessee, the Cherokee and the Musco- 
gulgee or Creek languages, abruptly stop the Algonquin or 
Chippeway; these will constitute a fourth, and perhaps the 
fifth original language. From the regions inhabited by 
these people, to the extremity of Florida on the one hand, 
and to the Mississippi, on the other, there are several other 
distinct languages, or widely differing dialects spoken, 
whose relations to each other or to any original language have 
been very imperfectly traced; at any rate, too slightly to 
enable us to speak of them with any precision. 

South of the Sascatchawine, and west of the Mississippi, 
to the frontiers of Mexico, lies an immense country, with 
which we are most imperfectly acquainted. The Sioux, the 
Osages, Panis, and Appaches, seem to constitute as many 
distinct languages. They are at any rate original, when 
compared with those spoken this side of the Mississippi. 

Of the languages spoken from the Esquimaux to Califor- 
nia, and between the Rocky mountains and the Pacific 
ocean, we are in like manner almost entirely ignorant. By 
far the greatest part of this extensive region, has never 
been even visited by a civilized man. 

In California, there appears to be spoken two or more dis- 
tinct languages. What relation they bear to others we 
know not. 

On the frontiers of Mexico, the Ottomite language pre- 
vails. I have seen a few analogies between it and the Che- 
rokee, {Silliman's Journal^ iii. 35, &c.) but cannot say any 
thing concerning its originality. 

From these last, as far as Lake Nicaragua, the Mexican 
or Azteck language is said to prevail; including, however, 
fifteen or twenty different languages, whose relation to each 
other are very little understood. The prevailing opinion is, 
that they are mostly original languages. The northern part 
of South America, is divided among theCaraibs, whose lan- 
guage mixed with some unknown idioms, prevailed on the 
Atlantic coasts to the equator. The central parts were pos- 
sessed by the Muyscas, who spoke the Chibcha language. 
The Peruvian or Quichua language, extended on the side 
next the Pacific ocean, to Chili. In the central parts of 
South America, in Brazil, Paraguay, and Buenos Ayres, the 
Guarani, was the language chiefly spoken; and lastly, the 
Araucanian, was the language of Chili and Patagonia. 

Such, in brief, are the great outlines of the original Ame- 
rican languages, sketched in a most inexact manner, and 


which may possibly be as much short of the truth, as others 
have exceeded it in their computations. * We have great 
doubts concerning the number of the dialects laid down by sys- 
tematic writers, because of the peculiar circumstances that 
have attended the formation of the vocabularies, upon which 
the calculation has chiefly depended, and whose defects we 
have but just considered. In all probability, instead of the 
twelve hundred and fourteen, which are attributed to Ame- 
rica, there is not a third of that number, unless insignificant 
peculiarities are resorted to, as constituting a dialect.t The 
numerous mistakes of Vater,J in his classification of those 
languages belonging to districts with which we are well ac- 
quainted, induce us to think, that greater inaccuracies pertain 
to those classifications of tribes and nations, concerning 
whom a much greater ignorance prevails. 

The question most interesting to the generality of readers, 
respecting the American languages, is, whether any con- 
nexion exists between them and those of any other people 
of the earth. Though this has been the most direct applica- 
tion of the vocabularies, the comparison of them has been 
attended with any thing but satisfactory conclusion. The 
result of the labours of the most extensive collector of com- 

* Since writing the above, I have been favoured by professor Rafinesque, 
with a tabular view of the original languages of America, which is here 
subjoined, according to his nomenclature. It will be seen that he agrees 
very nearly with me, by estimating them but twenty-five in number at 
farthest, though he thinks a more complete investigation, may possibly re- 
duce them to but eighteen. Thus, for instance, 4 and 5, may be found to be 
the same, so also, 6, 7, 8, and 9, 10, 1 1, as they have considerable analogies 
with each other, 15, 16, and 19, approximate also by gradual dialects, with 
17, IS, 20. 

Original ^9merican Languages according to Professor Rafaiesque. 


1. Us/ci/t, Esquimaux, &c. 15. .^ntac, Arrowaek, &c. 

2. Ojigtij/, Wyandot, &c. 16. Cafoia, Caraib, &c. 

n. Lenap, Chippeway, &c. n. Puris, Mayapuris, &c. 

4. [Focas/i, Northwest Coast. 18. Yarwa, Betoy, Charua, &c. 

5. Skere, Paunee, &c. 19. Cuna, Darien, Choco, &c. 

6. JsTachez, Natchez, &c. 20. Mayna, Yameos, &c. 

7. Capaha, Sioux, &c. 21. Maca, Muhizca, &c. 

8. C/irtdaft, Chocktaw, &c. 22. Gnrtram, Guarani,&c. 

9. Otaly, Cherokee, &c. 23. Maran, Peruvian, &c. 

10. ^9«n««7i, Tarascan, &c. 24. Lwie, Abipone, &c. 

11. Otomi, Otomi, &c. 25. C/ii/r, Araucanian, &c. 

12. Jlzleck, Mexican, &c. 

13. JViaj/a, Huasteca, &c. 

14. C/iontaJ, Tzendal, &.C. 

" t Professor Rafinesque informs me, that if llie languages of Europe had 
been subdivided, as has been done with those of America, we should have 
sixty languages in France, one hundred in Italy, &c. 
+ Sec North American Review, for January 1826, p. 34, &.c. 


parative words, is thus given by Malte Brun, [Geug. v. 35,) 
from Vater's Researches, for being ignorant of the German 
language, we are obliged to quote at second hand. "The 
number of analogous words discovered between the various 
American languages, and other parts of the world, are with 
the Coptic and Japanese, eight words; with the Malay, 
eleven; the Sanscrit, five; with the west coast of Africa, 
twenty; with the Biscayan, eight; the Celtic, nineteen; 
the Caucasian, nine." 

These comparisons amount to nothing, for the analogies 
are taken indiscriminately from among the twelve hundred 
and fourteen dialects, which professor Vater attributes to 
America, and when we find Africa affording the greatest 
number, I presume no one will expect to see the mystery 
of the origin of tlie American Indians, elucidated by philo- 

The late Dr. Barton of Philadelphia, was many years em- 
ployed in a similar research, and with about the same suc- 
cess. Though he thought himself justified to conclude, 
that the original population of America was from Asia, yet 
the editor of Rees's Cyclopedia, well observes, "that when 
similarities equally striking, though not so numerous, are 
also pointed out between the language of the Society 
and Friendly islands, Easter island, the Marquesas, and 
certain North American tribes, nay, when the Doctor in- 
forms us, that he has discovered striking affinities between 
the language of these last, and of the ^alofs, one of the 
blackest nations of Africa, the mind instead of resting on 
the stability of conviction, is again lost in an endless and 
perplexing labyrinth of conjecture." 

An attempt has also been made, to compare languages to- 
gether, by translating into various idioms some well known 
sentence. This though ingenious, has been entirely unsa- 
tisfactory, from our ignorance of the eliptical expressions, 
into which a language throws itself according to its peculiar 
genius. Thus, though the Delaware and Massachusetts In- 
dian languages, are most indubitably dialects of the same 
language, yet if the Lord's prayer, as translated by Eliot in 
his Bible, be compared with that given by Heckcwelder in 
Trans. Hist, and Lit. Committee, there will not be found 
two words in these two examples, bearing the least affinity 
to each other. The reason of this may be from various 
causes, but unless a person be grammatically instructed in 
the two dialects, who would have suspected their relation- 
ship, when not the least resemblance between them is to be 


We may therefore safely assert, that hithertOj no general 
resemblance has been detected between the words of the 
American languages, and those of the eastern continent, which 
may not with more plausibility be referred to the one common 
origin of the human race, than to the affiliation of any one 
nation from the other.* 

The philologists have themselves become aware of the 
errors of their comparative vocabularies; and the ill success 
they have met with in tracing the descent of nations by com- 
paring single words, has induced them to examine languages 
according to their idiomatic or syntactic arrangements. Ba- 
ron Humboldt, whose extraordinary powers of mind have 
made him intimate with the most opposite classes of science, 
observes, "I am well aware that languages are much more 
strongly characterised by their structure and grammatical 
forms, than by the analogy of their sounds and of their roots, 
and that this analogy of sounds is something so disfigured in 
the different dialects of the same tongue, as not to be dis- 
tinguished." &c. {Personal Narrative, iii. 251.) 

I venture on a consideration of the syntactic arrangements 
of language, as applicable to our subject, with some hesitation; 
for, in addition to the general obscui'ity that we have shewn 
hangs over the Indian languages, I find myself in opposition 
to Ihe views that philologists have brought forward concern- 
ing their idiomatic construction. To enter into a critical 
analysis of the subject, not only requires a most extensive 
knowledge of ancient and modern languages, but also a 
mind peculiarly formed by nature, one of great metaphysical 
nicety of perception, to unravel the intricacies of forms of 
words developing thought, in a manner entirely different 
from those to which we are accustomed, and in both of these 
particulars I cannot hesitate to express a sense of my de- 

Nevertheless, the subject is interesting, and since a certain 
general attention has been directed to its investigation, we 
feel compelled as it were to make an exposition, at least as 
far as light has been thrown on it, or as far as we have been 
able to comprehend the details. 

These researches into the idiomatic formations of language, 
have been chiefly confined to the German literati, and it is 
only through imperfect accounts given by travellers and very 

'■ Jt is admitted that the laiigiingcs of the Esquimaux and the Tschutchi of 
ihe. eastern extremity of Asia, have a striking rc'^emblance to each other. 
Most writers who have been aware of this fact, derive the latter from Ame- 
rica. 1 am not prepared to decide on this matter, which is involved with 
some other particulars not easy to explain. 


general critics, that we have been enabled to comprehend 
their views on this subject. Mr. Du Ponceau of Philadel- 
phia, of whom we must make most honourable mention, has 
added essentially to our previously limited knowledge, by 
extensive philological inquiries, published in various works, 
pertaining to the history of the Indian languages. To him 
we confess the greatest obligations, especially as the works 
of Vater, Schlegel, and other such writers in the German 
language continue untranslated. 

As far as concerns our subject, Mr. Du Ponceau considers 
himself justified in making the following declarations. 

1st. That the American languages in general, are rich in 
words and in grammatical forms, and that in their complica- 
ted construction, the greatest order, method, and regularity 

2d. That these complicated forms, called by him Poly- 
synthetic* appear to exist in all those languages from Green- 
land to Cape Horn. 

3d. That these forms appear to differ essentially, from those 
of the ancient and modern languages of the old hemisphere. 

Such are the general views of Mr. Du Ponceau, and several 
other philologers upon this subject, which apparently would 
require much time and labour to examine. We shall not, 
however, enter into any minute investigation of them, but 
keeping the propositions constantly in view, will attempt to 
lay before our readers, such a general view of the construction 
of the Indian languages, as may furnish a tolerable commen- 
tary upon these philological opinions. 

As the grammatical construction, of the Indian languages 
throughout the continent is asserted to be similar, we shall, 
to illustrate our subject, investigate the principles of the lan- 
guage of the Massachusetts Indians, as we have at our hand 

* "The Polysynthetic construction is that, by which the greatest number 
of ideas are comprised in the least number of words. This is done principally 
in two ways, 1st. By a mode of compounding locutions, which is not confin- 
ed by joining two words together, as in the Greek, or varying the inflection 
or termination of a radical word, as in the most European languages, but by 
interweaving together, the most significant sounds or syllables of each simple 
word, so as to form a compound, that will awaken in the mind at once, all 
the ideas singly expressed, by the words from which they are taken. 
2d. By an analogous combination, the various parts of speech, particularly 
by means of the verb, so that its various forms and inflections will express, 
not only the principal action, but the greatest possible number of the moral 
ideas, and physical objects connected with it, and will combiue itself to the 
greatest extent Avith those conceptions, which are the subject of other parts 
of speech, and which in other languages require to be expressed by separate 
and distinct words. Such I take to be the general character of the inaian 
languages." {Mr. Du Ponceau. Hist, and Lit. Trans, xxx.) 


the writings of the Rev. Mr. Eliot, and Dr. Jonathan Ed- 
wards, who lived among nearly the same tribe, and being 
both very concise,* may be supposed to exhibit more express- 
ly, the peculiarities of that form of speech. 

In attempting to convey to the reader an idea of the idio- 
matic construction of the Indian languages, it must be under- 
stood, that we do so with the view of explaining their pecu- 
liarities alone, and not to point out how these languages origi- 
nated. We believe that God who made man an intellectual 
and social animal, gave him speech, that he might fulfil the 
great purposes of his being; but in what manner he was en- 
abled to connect ideas with sounds and modifications of sounds, 
so as to establish the various parts of speech, and forms of 
language, we profess entire ignorance, even after some tire- 
some reading of essays on this subject, from the pens of 
learned writers. We shall therefore say nothing on this 
subject, but simply take the Indian grammars that lay before 
us, and from them, endeavour to shew in what manner the 
aborigines of America used their words. Perhaps this ex- 
pression is too general, but as Humboldt, Du Ponceau, and 
other learned men, have alBrmed that a similarity of idioma- 
tic structure prevails throughout America, we feel compelled 
to adopt this general theory, at least until it be disproved, 
which we have not the means of doing, as may be seen from 
our preceding observations on this subject. Even the lim- 
ited plan we have assigned ourselves, of investigating one 
language alone, has been found to involve so many difficulties, 
from the conciseness of the Indian grammars, and want of 
explanation, that we do not hesitate to say, it has been the 
most perplexing and unsatisfactory part of our researches. 

The Massachusetts Indians, whose language we shall as- 
sume as the representative of all others in America, divided 
their words into articles, nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, 
adverbs, conjunctions, and interjections, if this last can be 
called a part of speech. 

As the pronouns, appear to perform the most important 
part of Indian speech, we shall first notice them, as they are 
the scaffolding by which every thing else is built up and ac- 
complished. If their use be fairly comprehended, it seems 

*Yet on the other hand, conciseness is the universal fault of all the Indian 
Grammars 1 have seen. That of Zeisberger which we owe to the care and 
industry of Mr. Du Ponceau, is nearly destitute of explanations and rules, 
though the examples of grammatical forms are numerous. I am not however 
satisfied with this grammar, believing that the author has followed a very 
artificial system of arrangement, not justified by any thing I can perceive, in 
the peculiarity of Indian grammatical constructions. 


to US there is little difficulty in perceiving the whole gram- 
matical construction of the language. These pronouns are 
both personal and possessive, and are as follow: 


Neen — I, me, or viy. Neenawun or Kenawun — We, us, our. 

Ken — TAoM, or thee, thy. Kenaau — Ye, your. 

Noh or nagum — He, she, it, his. Nahoh or Nagoh — They, them, their. 

Nothing can be more simple; and the various senses in 
which they are to be understood, will be easily perceived 
with a little attention and practice. The reader will also re- 
mark, that the plurals* are formed directly from the singular, 
by the addition of the letters, ■j^n — au — oh, with some eupho- 
nic letters. 

When these personal or possessive pronouns are used with 
another word, they are according to the genius of the lan- 
guage, contracted for the first and second persons, into Ne, 
and Ke, which we consider better expressed, by N', K', 
making a harsh aspirate, whose character is given by these 
letters. Instead of Noh, or Nahoh, in the third persons, an 
aspirated sound is given which is that of the letter W, as 
pronounced in work, world, &c. For an example we sub- 
join the following word, Me-tah the heart. 


N'tah,mj/ heart, N'tahhun, our heart, 

K'tah, thy heart, K'tahhou, your heart, 

W'tah, his, her or its heart. W'tahhou, their heart.] 

It will be seen that the prefixes, are the same singular and 
plural; but the plurals, suffix the letters, un, ou, ou with h 
euphonic. These are the same terminations that we remark- 
ed above on the pronouns, as distinguishing their plurals, 
from the singular, but here they are suffixed to the word tah. 
The same features may be observed in the use of all their other 
words, which we will not fail to observe in the course of our 

* The Europo-Indian philologers, make mention of a kind of plural which 
they call the particular, or American plural, which signifies according to them, 
loe, us, in relation to a particular number of persons, distinguished from an 
indefinite number. This particular plural is not noticed by Eliot, Edwards, 
or Zeisberger, but Mr. Heckewelder, (Trans. Hist, and Lit. Com. 429.) de- 
scribes it distinctly. Mr. Duponceau thinks that Neenawun, of our example, 
is this very plural, which should be distinguished from Kenawun, the indefi- 
nite plural. 

t Notwithstanding this example in which the personal pronouns are en- 
tirely possessive, it would seem that there is a different manner of express- 
ing possession, which is thus mentioned by Eliot. "The possessive rank of 
nouns is when the person doth challenge an interest in the thing. And it is 
made by adding the syllable eum or oom, according to euphony, unto the 
noun with its proper prefix-, for example, N'Mamiittoom, w?/ God; N'nun- 
kompoom, my man, &c. 


progress with this subject, as discriminating between singular 
and plural signification. 

The Indians do not regard sex, but divide their nouns sub- 
stantive, into animate, and inanimate. There is no distinc- 
tion between these two genders in their singular termination, 
though it is well marked in their plurals. 

Tiie animate nouns, make their plural by adding og, to 

the singular after various euphonic letters; as 

Nunkomp — a young man. Nunkompaog — young jnen. 

Nusquau — a yming woman. Nunsquoag — young women. 

The inanimate make their plural in as/i, with due eupho- 
ny, as 

Hussun — a slone. Hussunash — sloncs. 

Mehtug — a tree. Metugquash — trees. 

Certain anomalies prevail in their genders; as for instance, 
the stars are animate; the different parts of the body are in- 
animate; the virtues and vices are inanimate; &c. 

The numbers are two, singular and plural. 

Their nouns are not varied by terminations, or by the use 
of particles, but by prefixing the personal and possessive 
pronouns, as may be seen in the following example. 
NUTCHEG — (a) hand. 


N'nutcheg — my hand, N'nutcheganun — our hand, 

K'nutcheg — thy hand, K'nutcheganou — your hand, 

Wnutcheg — his or her, or Us hand. W'nutcheganou — their hand. 


N'nutcheganash, .... my hands. 

K'nutchegash or K'nutcheganash, . thy hands. 

Wnutchegash or W'nutcheganash, his or her, or Us hands. 

N'nutchcganunonut, .... our hands. 

K'nutcheganoowout, . . . your hands. 

Wnutcheganoowout, . . . their hands. 

In this example it will be seen that the noun is inanimate, 
by the termination gash, in the plural. But the last three 
persons of the plural have a different termination, which is 
in reality a reduplication of the plural persons singular, with 
lit added for euphony, or as a suppletive, which continually 
occurs in this language. {See Eliot, jjctges 8, 23.) Though 
this is an anomaly in this noun, Eliot makes no observation 
upon it, which will convey an idea of the carelessness with 
which his grammar has been written; as it is the only sub- 
stantive he introduces, to shew the peculiarity of the declen- 
sions. But the word I presume is undoubtedly correct, for 
we find the same reduplication used by the Delaware In- 
dians: See Zeisberger's Grammar, 38, and example N'ooch, 
^y fiither; N'oochena, our father; N'oochenana, our fat h- 


ers. But according to Eliot's rule, the words should termi- 
nate in gashu7i, gashou, &c. as an inanimate noun, and we 
know not how to explain this departure, unless by the sup- 
position, that the Indian grammatical rules, throw a very 
light restraint on their forms of speech, and that little regard 
is paid to genders, &c. by speakers in general. 

Though the manner in which the Indians use their 
nouns seems very peculiar, I rather think that impression 
will be found to arise from the abstract manner, we are accus- 
tomed to learn our own, or the learned languages,* while 
the Indians unaccustomed to abstractions, use their words in 
their restricted or proper sense alone. But with certain 
idiomatic peculiarities, they do express the sense of our 
cases. On this subject, however, our information is very 
meagre, and we shall be obliged to use all our books on the 
different Indian dialects, to make this matter plausible. 

Zeisberger says, {page 37,) that the genitive is expressed 
among the Delawares, by placing the noun employed in that 
sense, immediately before that, which is used in the nomi- 
native; as Getannittowit quisal, God's son. 

The dative, is expressed by the sense given from the verb 
used with the noun; as N'milan, "/ give him,'' i. e. I give 
to him. 

The accusative, is also expressed actively by the verb, as 
N'dahoala, I love him. 

The vocative is expressed in the singular by the termina- 
tion an, and in the plural by enk, as W'tochemellan, O, my 
father; Wetochemellenk, O, our father. 

* The declension of nouns in cur own language, as in the Greek or Latin, is 
learned entirely abstractedly. We say of a man: to a man; of a father, 
from a father; &c. But the Indians have no use for words in their abstract 
sense. Thus the Rev. Mr. Edwards says, an Indian cannot use the word 
father in an abstract sense. They can say N'ogh my father, K'ogh thxj father, 
&c. but if you were to strip the Avord of the affixes, N' iwj, and K' thy, and use 
the word ogh, a Mohegan would stare and smile. The same observation is 
applicable to mother, brother, sister, son, head, hand, foot, &c. and in short 
to those things in general, which necessarily in their natural state belong to 
some person. A hatchet is sometimes found without an owner; and there- 
fore they sometimes have occasion to speak of it absolutely, or without re- 
ferring it to an owner, but as head, hand, &c. naturally belong to some per- 
son, and they have no occasion to speak of them without referring to the 
person to whom they belong, so they have no words to express them abso- 

This is in reality the case with every rude nation. Thus the people of Ja- 
va, in the Indian ocean, have two or three names for each metal, but have 
no word equivalent to the general term metal. They have five names for a 
dog; six for a hog or elephant; seven for a horse; but they have no word or 
term signifying aniiml, as an abstract noun. ( CrawfinVs Hist. Indian Jlrchtp 
ii. 8.) 



The ablative or local case, is formed by means of the suf- 
fixes ink and unk, which express in, on, out of, as Utenink 
N'da, I am going into town; Utenink N'oon, / am com,ing 
out of town. 

The Rev. Mr. Edwards gays, the Mohegan Indians have 
the prepositions Anneh to, and Ocheh y^ow, in their dialect: 
but that to, and from, are almost always expressed by an 
alteration of the verb. Thus if I would say, I ride to Stock- 
bridge, whose Indian name is Wnoghquetookoke; I must 
not say anneh Wnoghquetookoke n'doghpeh, but must say 
Wnoghquetookoke n'dannetoghpeh; and to say I ride from 
Stockbridge, we must not prefix ocheh, but must say 
Wnoghquetookoke n'ochetogpeh. 

Notwithstanding our respect for the authority of Mr. Ed- 
wards, we think him mistaken in the example he has given; 
for it appears to us only an idiomatic peculiarity in afiixing 
the prepositions and not by an alteration of the verb, for 
both to, and from, are distinctly expressed. In the first 
example, it is only the euphonic letter d, before the vowel, 
that occasions the apparent change of the verb, as the sim- 
ple inspection of the word, alone seems to shew. In the 
last example, the preposition is distinctly prefixed to the 

Eliot in but one instance informs us, how the Massachu- 
setts Indians express a case, which is that of the ablative. 
This is done by adding ut or it to the word; thus, N'eek is 
m,y house; N'eekit is in my house. 

The Massachusetts Indians have adjectives in their lan- 
guage, that agree with noun and pronoun, in number, per- 
son, and gender, and which are either animate or inanimate. 

The animate adjective singular, according to Eliot, ends 
in es or esu, the plural, like animate nouns, ends in og. 

The inanimate singular, ends in i or e, and the plural in 
ash, like the inanimate nouns; for instance, 


Animate. Wompes — (loliile,) . . . Wompesuog. 

Mooesu — (_black,) . . . Mooesuog. 

Inanimate. Wompi — (lohite,) . . . Wompiyeuasii. 

Mooi — (black,) .... Mooesuash. 

When the adjective is used with a noun, the two words 
are generally contracted together into one word, thus Wom- 
posketomp is a white man, and is compounded of Wompes 
ivhite, and Wosketomp m,an, &c. 

The degrees of comparison, are expressed by words sig- 
nifying more, and ynore and m,ore; much, small, &c. 


The general opinion is, that Indians have few proper ad- 
jectives,* and that they express the qualities of substantives 
by neuter verbs. We consider this a mistake, arising from 
a peculiarity in the use of the personal pronouns, which 
supply, as we shall presently see, the want of the substan- 
tive verb to be; and the possessive pronouns, that serve for 
the auxiliary verb to have; which two verbs are at least, ge- 
nerally wanting in the Indian languages. 

From this defect, it will be seen at once, that any noun or 
adjective becomes as it were a verb, simply by affixing the 
pronouns: for the sense in which they are used, shew the 
substantive verb to be understood: thus, Wosketomp is a 
man, prefix the inseparable pronoun N', and it is N'woske- 
tomp, / man; that is, / am a man. K' wosketomp, thou 
man; that is, thou art a man, &c. And thus, the adjec- 
tive Wompes, white, with the prefixes, becomes N'wompes, 
I white; i. e. I am. white; K' wompes, thou white; i. e. thou 
art white, &c. And thus the reader can readily perceive, 
that almost any word in the language can be thrown into the 
form of a verb: but it is no more a verb proper, than the 
same words are verbs in the English language. 

We have already observed, that the pronouns were the 
most important parts of speech in the Indian languages; we 
have shewn this in their usage of nouns and adjectives; and 
they will appear in like manner, according to our apprehen- 
sion, to be the essential parts of the verb. In the right un- 
derstanding that the personal pronouns, impliedly signify 
according to sense, the substantive verb to be, and the aux- 
iliary to have, in connexion with their meaning as pronouns, 
will be found an easy solution of all the exaggerated forms of 
the Indian verbs, whose paradigms confound the reader with 
the multiplicity of their conjugations, forms, transitions, &c., 
which as far as I can perceive, are formed of a variety of 
words compounded together according to the required sense, 
but which the Indian grammarians blend together as one 

Notwithstanding the multiplied conjugations and forms, 
that have been ascribed to the Indian verbs, we cannot per- 
ceive in the grammars we have consulted, in reality more 

*The Rev. Mr. Edwards says, "the Mohegans have no adjective in ail 
their language, unless we reckon numerals, and such words as, all, inany,8fc. 
adjectives. Of adjectives that express the qualities of substances, I do not 
find they have any. 

They express those qualities by neuter verbs; as W'nissoo, he is beauhful; 
pehtunquissoo, he is tall; W'sconmoo, he is malicious, &c. Thus in tjie Latin 
many qualities are expressed by verbs neuter, as valeo, caleo, frigeo," &c. 



than one form; though we shall for the present allow them 
two. One of these employs the verb in the neuter sense, and 
the other is properly transitive; but which we think better 
denominated by the Indian grammarians "personal verbs." 
We shall give an example of the neuter verb, to shew its gram- 
matical construction; and such part of a personal verb, as may 
be deemed sufficient for our general purpose. The verb we 
propose to exhibit is one given by Eliot in his grammar, as 
illustrating the simplest form of verbs, it is N'waantam, / 
am wise. 

In strictness, we consider this verb, to be the adjective 
wise^ in conjunction with the several personal pronouns, but 
thrown into a verbal form. The substantive verb to 6e, is 
distinctly conveyed in sense by the pronouns. 



Singular. Plural, 

N'waantam, / {am) wise, N'waantamumun, we {are) tutsp, 

K'waantam, thou {art) wise, K'waantamumwoo, ye {are) wise, 

W'aantam noh, he {is) wise. Waanlamwog, they {are) wise. 


Singular. Plural. 

N'waantamup, Iv)as wise, N'waanlamumunonup, ive ivereivise, 

K'waantamup, thou tvastwise, K'waantamumwop, ye were tvise, 

W'aantamup, he was wise. W'aantamupaneg, they were wise. 


Sing^ilar. Plural. 

Waantamuttiih.fce ye wise. 

Waantash ) , ,, Waantaniook ) l n. 

,., . ■ > be thou wise. ,,, . u ,4- u i "f they wise. 

Waantaj ^ ""^ ' "■ ^ Waantamohettich ^ 



N'waantamun-toh, I xoish I were irJsp, 
K'waantaiiViin-toh, rjou tvish you icere terse, 
W'aantanuin-toh, he xvishes he was wise. 

N'waantamunan-toh, we loishive were wise, 
K'waantamunan-toh, ye xoish ye were icise, 
W'aantamuneau-toh, they wish they were wise. 


N'waantamunaz-toh, I wish I had been wise, 
K'waantaniiinaz-toh, lliou unshesl Ibou had been wise, 
W'aantainunaz-toh, he wishes he had been wise. 

N'waantainunanoiz-toh, ice wish we had been wise, 
K'waantamunaoiz-toh, ye wish ye had been wise, 
Waanlamunaoiz-toh, they wish they had been wise. 




Singular. Plural. 

Waantamon, if I %o<is wise, Waantamog, ifioe were loise, 

Waantaman, if thou ivasl icise, Waantamog, i/i/e ivere loise, 

Waantog, if he loasume. Waantamohettit,i/</iei/i«ereu'tse. 


Singular. Plural. 

Waan tamos,"?/ 1 had been loise, Waantamogkis, if we had been tcise, 

Waantamas, if thou had been wise, Waantamogkis, if ye had been wise, 

Waantogkis, if he had been wise. Waantamohettis,i/(/ie?/ hadbeenwise. 

Waantamunat, to be wise. 

Eliot, from whom this paradigm has been taken, has not 
affixed any English signification to it, which however is es- 
sential to a correct understanding of the Indian verbal sense. 
I have attempted to give his meaning, but do not vouch for 
more than a general accuracy, nor is there any one within 
several hundred miles, to whom I could apply for informa- 
tion. If any of my readers look into these forms with phi- 
lological scrutiny, they must take the verb as Eliot gives it, 
omiting my translation. 

On examining the different personalities of this verb, we 
find, that the present tense indicative, is constructed exactly 
like the declension of the noun. We may perceive the same 
prefixes, both singular and plural, and the same plural affixes, 
that belong to the plural pronouns, or plural use of the nouns. 

The perfect tense, differs only from the present, by the 
addition of the letters w/?, which are added to the end of the 
different persons, and which implies a perfected sense. 
Whether it be really a verbal termination, or some contract- 
ed particle, I know not. 

How the imperative mood is formed, I cannot perceive, 
but consider it most probable, that the ash, and aj\ are eu- 
phonic suppletives, the tone of whose expression denotes 
command. Eliot says, there is no formation by which we 
can express petition, as let me he wise; but that to convey 
the sense of this prayer, we must add the word pa, to the 
present indicative, thus Pa N'waantam, let me be wise. 

The optative mood, present tense, is, according to our 
views, the present tense indicative, with the euphonic letters 
U7i added, in order to express distinctly the sound of the ad- 
verb toh, wish, the same as the latin word utinam. 

The perfect tense adds az and oiz, according to Eliot's or- 
thography, to the present indicative, which seemingly im- 
plies verbal inflection; but this can hardly be the case, as the 


adverb /oA, is in like manner added to make the sense; most 
probably, therefore, they are only euphonic sounds. 

The suppositive mood, has no pronouns prefixed, but 
seems to have them affixed, with other letters, probably eu- 
phonic. The sense is most probably dependant on the sig- 
nificant manner in which the phrase was used. 

The infinitive, is said to be the radical with the termina- 
tion at annexed; but I consider this inaccurate, and that the 
Indians, properly speaking, had no infinitive. According to 
Eliot himself, {Grammar 24,) the sense of the infinitive 
mood is given by one verb being preceded by another. 
The Rev. Mr. Edwards expressly says, the Mohegans never 
use a verb in the infinitive mood, or indeed in any abstract 
sense, which is confirmed by the North American Review. 
{Jan. 1826, p. 30.) 

The reader cannot have failed to remark, that there is no 
future tense given in this paradigm. Eliot says, the sense of 
the future is given by adding to the present indicative 
the words, mos^ pish, signifying shall, or loill, or futurity; 
yet he might as well have introduced this tense as his opta- 
tive mood, which is equally a compounded phrase. But in all 
probability, the future tense is chiefly understood among the 
Indians, from its absolutely necessary connexion with the 
time of the action; as for instance, Mr. Edwards says, *'to 
express both the past and the future, they generally use the 
form of the present tense, as Wnukwoh n'diotuwohpoh, yes- 
terday 1 fought, or wnukuwoh n'diotuwoh, yesterday I 
fight; n'diotuwauch wupkoh, I shall fight to-morrow; or 
wupkauch n'diotuwoh, to-morrow I fight. In this last case 
the variation of wwpkoh to wupkauch, denotes the future 
tense, and this variation is in the word to-morrow, not in the 
word to fight." 

Eliot subjoins to this paradigm, one of the same verb in its 
negative form, but which we cannot think entitled to any 
particular consideration, as it is precisely the same verb with 
the adverb "mo," not, added to it, and can no more be con- 
sidered a verb, than the vulgar phrase, I a'nt wise, you a'nt 
wise, &c. which might also be carried through a regular con- 

Having thus given an example of an Indian verb in its 
most simple form, we now pass on to some of those apparent- 
ly complicated verbal forms, that have so much excited the 
attention of philologists. The one we propose exhibiting in 
part, is of the personal form; which we consider to be the 
only one in use among these people, where the sense is not 


confined as in neuter verbs. Neither do we perceive it to 
be so much a verb, as a conjugated phrase; which our own 
language with a little alteration of spelling, can be made to 
represent precisely. 

In the preceding paradigm, the pronouns were alone pre- 
fixed, in the following they are both prefixed and suffixed ; 
for it appears they never use a verb in an abstract sense. 
The Rev. Mr. Edwards observes, "The Mohegans never use 
a verb in the infinitive mood, or without a nominative or 
agent, and never use a transitive verb, without expressing 
both the agent and the object, corresponding to the nomina- 
tive and accusative cases in Latin. Thus, they can neither 
say, to love, nor, / love, thou givest, &c. but, they say, / 
love thee, thou givest him, &c. * 

"Another peculiarity is, that the nominative and accusa- 
tive pronouns prefixed and suffixed, are always used, even 
though other nominatives and accusatives be expressed: thus 
they cannot say, John loves Peter, they always say, John 
he loves him, Peter; John uduhwhunuw Peteran. Hence, 
when the Indians begin to speak English, they universally 
express themselves according to this idiom." 

For an example, I subjoin the indicative mood, present 
tense, of the verb paum, which is according to Eliot the In- 
dian adoption of our English verb to pay. The reason the 
venerable missionary assigns, for introducing it in his gram- 
mar, is equally applicable to our purpose, "that we can thus 
better perceive what are the grammatical forms of the lan- 
guage, they being added throughout to the radical joawm." 



Singular. Plural. 

K'paumush, I pay thee. K'paumunumun, we pay thee. 

N'payum, I pay him. N'paumoun, we pay him. 

K'paumunumwoo, I pay ye. K'paumunumun, we pay ye. 

N'pauraoog, I pay them. N'paumounonog, we pay them. 

K'paumeh, thoupayest me. K'paumimwoo, ye pay me. 

K'paum, thou payest him. K'paumau, ye pay him. 

K'paumimun, thou payest us. K'paumimun, ye pay us. 

K'paumoog, thou payest them. K'paumoog, ye pay them. 

"N'paumuk, he payeth me. N'paumukquog, they pay me. 

K'paumuk, he payeth thee. K'paumukquog, they pay thee. 

U'paumuh, he payeth him- Upaumouh, they pay him. 

K'paumukqun, he payeth us. N'pauumukqunonog, they pay us. 

K'paumukou, he payeth ye. K^pAumnkoog, they pay ye. 

Upaumuh nah, he payeth them. Upaumouh nah, they pay them. 

* An Indian cannot say / love, I hate, I fear, abstracted from the operation 
of the verb upon the object. He must say, friend I love him, enemy I hate 
kim, hear I fear him. (J^. Ji. Review, Jan. 1826, p. 30.) 


The reader from this specimen of the present tense alone, 
may form some idea of the number of pages it would re- 
quire to complete the paradigm for this personal form; and 
how impossible it would be, in so general an essay as the 
present, to introduce the reflected, compulsive, meditative, 
communicative, reverential, frequentative, and other circum- 
stantial forms, which philologists have attributed to the In- 
dian languages. 

At first sight, this verb paum appears to be inflected by 
terminations, as well as by prefixes; but a little examination 
will shew, that each personality is three distinct words, 
which really constitute a phrase, blended and contracted into 
one word, according to the genius of the Indian languages; 
whose remarkable power in contracting compound words, 
we shall presently notice. But if we were to express Eng- 
lish words according to their sound alone, as has been done 
with the Indian verb, instead of writing I pay you, it would 
be Ipayu; for he pays you, it would be hepaysu; for I 
pay him, Ipayim; for you pay him, upayim, &c. 

It is possible, this may not be the case entirely, with the 
Indian verb, but if we can shew it to be a distinguishing fea- 
ture in most of its parts, with the very inconsiderable know- 
ledge we have of its elements, we may by fair analogy infer 
it generally throughout its formation, especially, when we 
shall have shewn how difiicult it is for an European ear, to 
detect the various radicals, when compounded together into 
the one word, by which the sense is conveyed. 

Should any one think, I am taking an unjustifiable liberty 
with the spelling of the Indian words as given by Eliot, I 
would beg him to remember, that his orthography was made 
after his own ideas of the sound of the Indian words, and is 
without doubt, very inaccurate when compared with what 
the Moravians have done for the language of the Delaware 
Indians. But I shall not so much change the sounds, as ex- 
press them by other letters, which have what I deem the 
fact, the characteristic sounds of the language; the most im- 
portant of which will be to insert the W sound, of which 
we spoke when treating of the third personal pronouns, both 
singular and plural. This particular sound might be ex- 
pressed nearly by oo, or uo; but we prefer using the W, as 
it will mark more precisely the distinction, in the instances 
where we think those pronouns manifest their presence. 

The letters added for sake of euphony, are very numerous 
in Eliot's orthography; though not so much so in the exam- 
ple given, as in other parts of the same paradigm. These 


euphonic sounds of all others, the most difficult to ascertain 
in an unwritten language, are introduced by him chiefly in m, 
n, oo, p, q, t, u, z, &c. combined with diflferent vowels, 
which add materially to the apparent length of the words. 
He also says, we must read paum, paym, though he spells 
it constantly, paum. 

I consider the example already given, is to be thus parsed: 

K'paumush, K is the pronoun thou or thee; paumush 
signifies in this combination, /joay; the sh suffixed, I cannot 
detect, but the words are thee pay I. 

N'payum — it should beN'pay'w'm; iV is the pronoun I; 
pay the radical; w is the pronoun him, blended with the m 
of the noot. 

K'paumunumwoo — seems to be, K'paum uN' umwou; lit- 
terally you pay /, but with the plural termination wou, 
shews it to be ye. I do not however see clearly the compo- 
sition of this phrase. 

N'paumoog — is explicitly, N' /, paum, pay, og them: 
this last is the contraction of the demonstrative pronoun, 
yeug, these or them,. 

K'paumeh — is, K' thou, paumeh payeth me. I do not re- 
cognize the pronoun /, in this expression. 

K'paum — thou payest him; it should be K'pau'w'm: the 
V) blended with the radical, marks the pronoun him,. 

K'paumimun — is K, thou; paum, payeth; imun, us; the 
un, is the last part of the pronoun Neenawun, we; the other 
letters are euphonic. 

K'paumoog — is K'thou; paum payeth; og, or yeug them. 

N'paumuk — is N', me; paum, payeth; w'k he; the k for 

K'paumuk — is K,' paum'wk; K', thee; paum, payeth; 
w'k, him; as before. 

Upaumuh — should be, W'paum'w; literally, he payeth he. 

K'paumukqun — is embarrassed by the plural termination 
being added after the pronoun iv, represented by Eliot in the 
u, which precedes the k. The word probably should have 
been written, K'paum'w'kun. 

K'paumukou — considered similar in construction with the 

Upaumuh-nah — is distinctly marked, but should be 
W'paum-uh-nah, W, he; paum, payeth; nah, them; the uh 
for euphony. 

With this example of parsing, any one may detect the 
plural pronouns in the remaining parts of the paradigm, we 
do not think it necessary to go further in the analysis. 


Though we may not have succeeded in shewing that every 
personality of this Indian verb, exhibits three distinct words, 
yet it is so apparent in the far greater number we have 
examined, that it seems no one can reasonably deny, that 
this personal verb, as it is called, is but a conjugated phrase, 
arranged in every possible manner it could be used in a 
spoken language; and which may with additional words, be 
carried through all possible moods and tenses, as it has been 
done by Eliot and other Indian grammarians. 

As for the circumstantial forms, they appear in like man- 
ner to be phrases compounded of pronouns, adverbs, adjec- 
tives, and other parts of speech, which are or may be used 
in a verbal form: and which, according to my apprehension, 
are no ways peculiar to the American Indians; for they are 
constantly used in those forms among ourselves, and may be 
varied to an almost infinite degree. But the Indians have 
an advantage over us, in the singular peculiarity by which 
they contract these various words into apparently one word. 
In this remarkable feature will be found, I think, the only 
claim the Indians have to richness of language, for their 
grammatical forms seem to hang together, with a very loose 
accommodating generality of expression, to which it is ne- 
cessary to add gestures or significant looks, to make them 
intelligible. * 

There is, says an able writer in the North American Re- 
view, "in all our Indian languages a strong tendency to com- 
bination. We believe they were originally monosyllabic in 
their formation, and extremely limited in their application. 
Even now, at least one fourth part of the Chippeway words 
are monosyllables. As the poverty of these languages be- 
came apparent, and necessity required the introduction of 
new terms, they were formed by the combinations of words 
already existing. It is not easy to define the limits of this 
principle, nor to analyse the rules of its application; some 
letters are omitted, and the changes are frequently so great, 
as to render it difficult to reduce the words to their original 

* "No man has ever seen an Indian in conversation without being sensible, 
that the head and the hands, and the body, are all put in requisition, to aid 
the tongue in the performance of its appropriate duty." JV. Ji. Rerieiv, 
January, IS 26. 

A similar character is given of the Greenlanders, who "accompany many 
words not only with a particular accent, but with a certain significant look, 
which is necessary (o be regarded, in order to ascertain their meaning." 
Rees's Cyclopedia, Art Greenland. 

Juarros says of the Indians of Guatimala, that "the enunciation of words 
with more or less force, frequently conveys a diflerent, and sometimes an op- 
posite signification. Hi&t of GauHmala, 199. 


Mr. Heckewelder, has given us a few examples of the 
manner in which the several words of a phrase are con- 
tracted into one word, which displays so minutely this pe- 
culiarity, that we shall introduce them in the present page. 
The word nadhoiineen in the Delaware language, means 
according to him, {Trans. Hist, and Lit. Com. 406,) 
'■'•coine tuith the canoe and take us aa^oss the streamf^ its 
component parts are as follow, the first syllable nad, is de- 
rived from the verb naten to fetch, the second hoi, is from 
amochol a canoe; i7ieen is the verbal termination for us. 
The simple ideas therefore contained in this word, are, /p/cA 
canoe us; but in its usual and common acceptation means, 
come and fetch us across the river with a canoe. I need 
not say that this verb is conjugated through all its moods and 

'•The tree which we call the Spanish oak, remarkable for 
the largeness of its leaves, they call Amanganaschquimin- 
schi; 'the tree which has the largest leaves shaped like a 
hand.' If I were to imitate the composition of this word 
in English, I would say largehandleafnuttree, and softening 
the sounds after the Indian manner, it would perhaps make 
larjandliff entree, or larjandlennuttree; or something 
like it. Of course in framing the word, an English ear 
should be consulted." 

I have not sufficient knowledge of unwritten languages 
foreign to America, to say, whether the same peculiarities of 
contraction are used elsewhere, but I strongly suspect that 
they are characteristic of the savage state almost universally. 
Man seems naturally pleased with contracting words and ex- 
pressions into small compass; and in unwritten languages, 
where there is no standard of correct speaking, this feature 
will predominate more and more continually. In America, 
where there was a continual adoption of individuals of dif- 
ferent nations into their respective tribes, the effect would 
constantly be, that all simply auxiliary words would be 
overlooked and neglected by uninstructed speakers, who 
would use the essential words of the language for the most 
part alone, it not being a difficult matter to use them with 
all the intelligence their wants required. Such a practice 
would at least affect the more important words, so that a part 
of a word, or syllable, from its combination with other syl- 
lables, would convey the desired sense. I think this feature 
may be recognised in our own language, to a much greater 
degree than will at first be suspected, and however uncouth 
many of our phrases would look, were we to write them as 


they are pronounced, yet any one would be considered sin- 
gularly precise, who would speak them as they are written^ 
I subjoin the following instances, to mark the disposition 
even among ourselves, to contract our words, which as spo- 
ken, are spelt nearly in the following manner. I'm lovd, 
yur lovd; he's lovd, I'v'lovd, I'l'lov, I'd'lov, I ca'nt lov, I 
wo'nt lov, I sha'nt lov, &c. ; with all other phrases in which 
our auxiliary verbs are used. Yet we recognise at once, in 
these sounds, ihe composition of the phrase, though some of 
its parts are reduced to single letters alone; and if a state of 
great debasement, and loss of letters was to take place with us, 
the facility of contraction, checked by the ear alone, would 
be greatly increased. 

We have hitherto considered the syntactic construction of 
the American languages, throughout the continent, to be si- 
milar; but the time has now arrived in the progress of our 
investigation, to express some doubt as to this precise re- 
semblance. Even at this early period of making such re- 
searches, features of difference have been made known, 
which must tend greatly to weaken so universal a theory. 

Eliot, Edwards, Heckewelder, and Zeisberger, say, there 
is no substantive verb in the Delaware and Massachusetts 
Indian languages, and which we have also exhibited by our 
verbal paradigms.* But the author of the article in the N. 
A. Review, {Jany. 1826,) observes, the substantive verb, 
{sum of the Latin) is found both in the Miami and Sioux 
languages. And Baron Humboldt expressly says, it is found 
in the Chayma and Tamanack languages, of South America. 
{Pers. Nar. iii. 25S.) 

It is easy to perceive where this is the case, that the ver- 
bal forms must be very different from those used by nations 
who have no such verb. 

The Spaniards have conjugated the Mexican and other 
languages, according to all the forms of the Latin verbs, 
even to the gerunds and supines, the correctness of which 
Mr. Du Ponceau doubts. But, if he be right in his conjec- 
ture, surely little or no authority can be given to such gram- 
mars, and if they be exact, there is the greatest difference 
between their formation of the verb, and what is represent- 
ed to be the case with the more northern Indians. 

The Cherokee language has a dual number, according to 
Mr. Pickering, (5ee ElioVs Grammar, xx,) and this peculiar- 

* Dobrizoffer {Hi&l. Jhipones, ii. 183) says, neither the Guaranies nor the 
Abipones of Paraguay, have a substantive verb; and he illustrates this by 
various examples 


ity distinguishes the Karalit, or language of the Esquimaux. 
{Cyclopedia, art. Greenland.) 

With respect to minor differences, we are embarrassed 
with the conflicting statements given by different writers, 
which at any rate shew, that the subject is very imperfectly 
understood. Thus Eliot says, the Massachusetts Indians 
have only animate or inanimate nouns; and this is the case 
with the Delawares, according to Heckewelder. But Zeis- 
berger remarks, their nouns are masculine, feminine, and 
neuter. In the Onondago language, there are, according to 
one grammar, only masculine and feminine nouns; and in 
another by the same author, (Zeisberger) there are mascu 
line, feminine, and neuter nouns. {New York Hist. Coll. 
iii. 246.) 

Mr. Du Ponceau observes, that notwithstanding Eliot'a 
positive statement, that substantives are not distinguished by 
cases, except as above mentioned, we are surprised to find 
different terminations of the same word, in various parts of 
his translation of the Bible. See notes to Eliot's Gram. xiv. 

The interrogative pronoun ivho, Eliot, Zeisberger, and 
Heckewelder, say, is used in the languages of the Massachu- 
setts and Delaware Indians; yet the author of the Article in 
the N. A. Review, previously quoted, says "there is no 
word for loho, in the whole range of the Indian languages, 
as far as we are acquainted with them, and there is certain- 
ly none in the Delaware.'^'' 

The Rev. Mr. Edwards asserts, there is neither loho, nor 
which, in the language of the Mohegans, who were one of 
the Massachusetts tribes. 

From what has been generally brought forward upon the 
subject of the Indian languages, I think it will appear, that 
our knowledge of them is meagre and uncertain, but there 
seems enough known, to make us doubt very much, the high 
eulogiums that have been given to their syntactic construc- 
tion. It appears to me, that the idea of their grammatical 
richness, has arisen, partly, from misapprehended views of 
the missionaries, who in testifying to the capacity of the In- 
dians for moral instruction, have only asserted a sufficient 
richness in their languages, by which any kind of ideas 
might be brought within the sphere of their capacities, and 
partly, from the surprise of philosophers, in perceiving the 
perfection with which the Indians express their thoughts. 
The philologers, considering only the barbarism of their con- 
dition, did not expect to see abstract subjects so directly 
brought to their comprehension; and then perceiving the 


mechanism by which the idea was expressed, have imagined 
a perfection of plan in the contrivance, that does not belong 
to the construction of any language, but is alone referrible 
to the intellectual powers of man, considered as a rational 
and inteliigent being. Now, man is every where the same, 
as regards his capacities, and having the power of speech, he 
expresses all his hopes, enjoyments, and fears, by intelligi- 
ble sounds or words; and these emotions of the head or the 
heart, though differing in intensity, are certainly the same in 
the savage, as in the civilized man. The progress of civili- 
zation makes nicety of distinction more necessary, and new 
words are continually made according to the genius of the 
people, to meet their intellectual wants. If, however, we 
compare a rude and barbarous language, with one both civil 
ized and polished, there is a prodigious difference in the 
quantity of words. But if we reduce the words of the cul- 
tivated language, to heads, under a rigorous classification, I 
think it will be found, that the barbarous language has just 
as many heads or original words; and that the excess of 
words in the former language, are only the various degrees 
of expression, or differences of intensity, that have arisen 
from the restricted signification of the original words. 

It has been justly observed by Humboldt, {Pers. Nar. 
iii. 269,) ''that those languages, the principal tendency of 
which is inflection, excite less the curiosity than those which 
seem formed by aggregation.* In the first, the elements of 

* Aggregation, or agglutination, are tcchinal words in philological science, 
which distinguish one of the two different classes, into which all spoken lan- 
guage has been divided by Mr. F. Schlegel; a distinguished German philoso- 
pher whom we quote at second hand from Humboldt. (Pers. Jfar. iii. 263.) 
Of these two classes, "one more perfect in its organization, more easy and 
rapid in its movements, indicates an interior development by infleclion; while 
the other, more rude and less susceptible of improvement, presents only a 
crude assemblage of small forms or a^ghitinated particles, each preserving the 
physiognomy wJiich is peculiar to itself, when it is separately employed." 

Of these classes, the Sanscrit, Greek, Latin, German, &c., belong to the 
first. The Indian languages of America, the Coptic or ancient Epyptian, 
and to a certain degree, the Hebrew, Arabic, Biscayan, &,c. belong to the se- 

We think the theory entitled to little consideration; believing with many 
grammarians, that the terminations of words according to inflection, were 
originally personal pronouns, or particles, which have gradually become 
blended with the radical. I presume, Humboldt was of this opinion; for he 
supports this view by the following note. "Even in the Sanscrit, several 
tenses are formed by aggregation; for example, in the first future, the sub- 
stantive verb tobe, is added to the radical. In a similar manner, we find in 
the Greek mach-eso, if the s be not the effect of inflection, and in Latin 
pot-ero, (Bopp, p. 26 and 66.) These are examples of incorporations and 
agglutinations in the grammatical system of languages, which are justly 
cited as models of an interior development by Inflection. In (he grammati- 


which words are composed, and which are generally re- 
duced to a few letters, are no longer distinguished. These 
elements, when isolated, exhibit no meaning; the whole is 
assimilated and mingled together. The American languages, 
on the contrary, are like complicated machines, the wheels 
of which are exposed. The artifice is visible; I mean the 
industrious mechanism of their construction." 

It now only remains for us to ascertain, whether there be 
any thing peculiar to the American Indians, in the gramma- 
tical construction of their language, which remarkably dis- 
tinguishes them from other nations of the eastern continent. 

When we consider the very imperfect manner in which 
vocabularies have been made, both among the American In- 
dians, and the rude nations of Asia and Africa, and the still 
less attention that has been paid to their grammatical forms, 
I cannot believe, that the American languages are thus insu- 
lated in their structure, as the writings of the philologists 
seem to indicate. The love of system has undoubtedly 
much prevailed, in making such a distinction in the classifi- 
cation of languages; for there is an evident disregard to 
numerous or extensive analogies, that do exist between the 
construction of the American, and other languages, in va- 
rious parts of the earth, which we beg leave to point out, at 
least to a certain extent. It is admitted by philologists, that 
the language of the Tschuktshi of Asia, that of Biscay in 
Spain, and of Congo in Africa, bear striking resemblances 
to our Indian forms of speech; we do not say in every par- 
ticular, but in their general features there are evident marks 
of conformity of structure. 

Nor is this resemblance confined to Congo alone, among 
the African languages. Mr. Du Ponceau {Hist, and Lit. 
Trans, xlv. ) says, there is great reason to believe, that the 
same grammatical construction extends to all the black na- 
tions, that inhabit that coast. 

The language of the Grusians, a nation of Asia, appears to 
bear a striking resemblance in some of the forms of its verbs, 
to those of the American Indians. {Hist, and Lit. Trans. 

The resemblance in the structure of the Indian languages, 
and that of the Hebrew, is so great, as to have misled many 

cal system of the Americans, for example in the Tamanach, tareschi, I will 
carry, is equally compounded of the radical ar, (infin, jareri, to carry,) and 
of the verb substantive ecschi, (infin, noschiri, to be.) There hardly exists in 
the American languages a triple mode of aggregation, of which we cannot 
find a similar and analogous example, in some other language, that is sup- 
posed to develop itself only by inflection.'' (Pers. Mir. iii. 264.) 


persons speculating on the origin of the Indians, as to assign 
them a Jewish descent. But rejecting this silly notion, the 
syntactic construction of these languages is similar, and the an- 
alogies are widely extended by this means, to the Chaldeac, 
or Assyrian, the Phoenecian, and other cognate languages. 
As these last, are connected in a greater or less degree, with 
those of all the surrounding nations, it seems impossible to 
say, where we shall assign the limits to a less particular re- 

Under these circumstances, therefore, I cannot admit with- 
out greater proof, that the forms of grammar among the 
American Indians, are peculiar to them alone. On the con- 
trary, they appear to bear evident marks of similar construc- 
tion, with those of various other nations, testifying a common 
origin with them, and to communications which perhaps re- 
mount to the earliest history of our race, when in all likeli- 
hood, every language decidedly belonged to the agglutinated 
form: for it appears most probable, that inflections by termi- 
nations, are in reality only parts of the personal pronouns, or 
auxiliary words, that have been gradually and insensibly 
blended to the various parts of speech, subject to declen- 
sions or conjugations. t 

But whatever diversities of formation exist among the an- 
cient or the modern languages of the two continents, on 
first inspection, it will be soon found, that their analogies to 
each other become more and more apparent, the longer we 
continue our investigations; and at last, we become entirely 
satisfied, that they have proceeded from one original and 
common source. I think the labours of the philologists on 
this subject, leave us no room for doubt. The American lan- 
guages do not shew so pointed a resemblance to those of the 

* In languages, as in every thing in nature that is organized, nothing is en- 
tirely isolated or unlike. The farther we penetrate into their internal struc- 
ture, the more do contrasts and decided characters disappear. It might be 
said, that they are like clouds, the outlines of which do not appear well de- 
fined, except when they are viewed from a distance.'-' {Humboldt, Pers. Aar. 
iii. 264.) 

t Mr. Jones in his Greek grammar, has shewn that the personal termina- 
tions of the Greek verbs, are but corruptions of the personal pronouns, and 
all the variations of mood, tense, number, and persons, have originated in 
these six elementary principles: thus 

syu w I. 'hi^Sis ofj-sv we. 

tfu SIS thou. ti/xsis STS ye. 

6u £i he. ouTOJ ovO't they. 

See Rees's Cyclopedia; art. Language. It may convey some idea of the dif- 
ficulties, I have had to encounter in my researches, by stating, that I have 
been unable to find a copy of Jones' Greek Grammar, in this city of lO.OOO 


eastern continent, as these latter do among themselves, and this 
may be explained by several considerations. In the first 
place, the vocabularies of the American languages are ex- 
tremely defective, and do not permit extensive or accurate 
comparisons, and in the second place, the Indians have had 
no intercourse with other nations, as far as we know, since 
the earliest ages of the world. Being thus secluded from 
foreign nations, and their state of society remarkably favora- 
ble for the multiplication of dialects, it may be readily sup- 
posed, that traces of origin remounting to a very remote an- 
tiquity, will be comparatively slight. Yet amid all these 
causes of obscurity, enough has been brought forward in va- 
rious philological researches, to shew, that they have a com- 
mon descent with all other post diluvian nations;* which I 
presume, is the most that can be ever shewn by philology, 
for no investigation, hitherto, has given us the least reason, 
to consider them particularly connected with any one, two, 
or three individual languages, of the eastern continent. 

To this chapter we shall append a few insulated facts, re- 
lating to the general subject, which can only be considered 
of consequence, from thus bringing under one view, every 
circumstance we are acquainted with, respecting the peculi- 
arities of Indian communication. 

The Caraibs, have in a manner two languages common to 
them; one of which is spoken by men, and the other by wo- 
men. This curious anomaly prevails also among the Guay- 
curus, Mbayas, Abipones, and other South American tribes. 
{Southey's Brazil iii. 399, Q12—Azara ii. 106.) Among 
the Natchez of Louisianna, the nobility spoke a language 
partially different from that of the comm.on people. {Du 
Pratz^s Louisiana, ii. 170.) 

Humboldt, {Pers. Nar.v'i. 20.) explains these singular cir- 
cumstances very satisfactorily, by the supposition, that it 
arises from the well known practice of many Indian nations, 
preserving women captured in war, while the men were 
put to death. The consequence of which practice would be, 

* The late Dr. E. D. Clark, {Trav. in Scandinavia, ix. 391,) states in a note, 
that the Moravian missionaries say, a Laplander may be employed as an in- 
terpreter with the Esquimaux. I should have thought he intended to say a 
Greenlander, might be thus employed. But in vol. x, 26, he says again, 
"There seems good reason for believing that the language of the Laplanders, 
exists under different modifications over the N. W. parts of Russia, Finland, 
Lapland, Greenland, and the coast of Hudson's bay and Labrador, inhabited 
by the people called Esquimaux." 

If this statement be correct, but which I have no means of determining, 
it will entirely destroy the idea that the grammar of the American Indians, 
is in any way peculiar to them. 


where frequent wars prevailed with an adjacent people, that 
the women on being adopted into the nation, would speak 
their ancient language, and impart it to their children, where- 
as the national pride of the men, would not permit boys or 
young men, to use the language of a conquered foe; and thus 
two languages have been established among these people.* 

In some of the North American languages there were cer- 
tain words used by men, and others by women, for the same 
things, and these it was considered improper to be used by 
the different sexes indiscriminately. 

Acosta relates, "there are some in Mexico that understood 
each other by whistling, which is ordinarily used among lov- 
ers and thieves; a speech truly wonderful which none of our 
men could come to the knowledge thereof." {Purchas. Pil- 
grims, iii. 1 135.) 

For some purposes, the Guaycurus of Brazil can commu- 
nicate by whistling, as well as by words. [Southey's Brazil, 
iii. 672.) 

I presume, this whistling speech, as Acosta styles it, was 
nothing more than some few signals, which were only intel- 
ligible to the parties interested, and who had previously 
agreed to their signification. 

The Indians in various parts of North America, could un- 
derstand each other to a surprising degree, by means of signs, 
which appear very artificially arranged. Mr. Ellicott in 
decending the Ohio river [Journal,]). 30.) met with a cer- 
tain Philip Nolan, ''who, while in our camp, observed a 
number of Indians who were from the western side of the 
Mississippi, he spoke to them in the several languages with 
which he was acquainted, but they could not understand him; 
he then addressed them by signs, to which they immediately 
replied, and conversed for some time with apparent ease and 
satisfaction. Mr. Nolan informed me, that this curious mean 
of intercourse, was used by many nations on the west side of 
the Mississippi." 

A description of the principal signs, in use among these 
Indians, has been published in the Trans. Amer. Philos. Soc. 
vi. p. 1. 

* Malte Brun (f/eog;. booA;, 25,) says, the Circasian princes and nobility 
speak a language peculiar to themselves, which is unintelligible to the com- 
mon people. This we presume is occasioned by causes more or less analo- 
gous to those among the Caraihs. In like manner the Spaniards of Paraguay 
speak a language, compounded of the Spanish and Guarani; the first of which 
is there only understood by the higher classes. (Southey Hist. Brazil, iii. 431.) 
In Quito, Ulloa observed a similar state of things, though not to so great an 


Bossu [Travels, 338,) says, the Attacapas Indians near the 
Bay of St. Bernard, can speak by signs, and hold long pan- 
tomime conversations. 

Heckewelder says, the Indians generally, have a language 
of signs, and can understand each other in this way, when 
they are unable to comprehend each other's speech. 

Lewis and Clark {Exped. i. 445,) observed, that the In- 
dians west of the Rocky mountains, communicated with each 
other by the universal language of signs and gesticulations. 

Charlevoix, {Hist. Paraguay, ii. 389,) shews us the same 
system exists at the southern extremity of America; for he 
says, the Indians of the Pampas, and the natives of Patagonia 
"use a language of signs." 



A CHARACTERISTIC viewof the Indians of America, founded 
upon an extensive examination of their social and moral in- 
stitutions, is fully as interesting as any research upon their 
physical conformation, or structure of their languages; and 
must be from evident reason, a principal mean for investi- 
gating their origin. If they have descended from any na- 
tion of ancient or modern times, they must in a greater or 
less degree, continue to resemble the nation, or nations, 
from whom they have sprung; unless indeed, the era of 
their origin belongs to those remote ages, in which the his- 
tory of all nations lies involved in a common obscurity. 

The plan upon which we shall proceed in this part of our 
researches, will be; first, to give a correct view of the Ame- 
rican Indians in their moral and social state; and secondly, 
to produce analogous matters from the history of various na- 
tions of the eastern continent, as far as may be deemed ne- 

In attempting to describe the manners and institutions of 
the Indians, we shall not adopt those loose and general de- 
scriptions, that have been hitherto published on this subject. 
But we will endeavour, as far as we are able, to convey 
a correct idea of what they really were; which will neces- 
sarily require more or less detail, of whatever was peculiar 
to their aboriginal condition. 

What would any one think of a view of European or An- 
glo-American society, which would be so general, as not to 
detail the leading features of their government and religion, 
the tremendous machinery of their wars, or the importance 
and variety of their mechanical arts? Who could appreciate 
the state of their social institutions, unless a certain degree 
of information was given upon these subjects. Yet thus 
general, have been for the most part, the views given of the 
Aborigines of America. Little or nothing has been detailed, 
and of that little, we frequently find, that insignificant mat- 
ters have been made important, and local customs have been 
assumed as pertaining to the whole continent: Or else, the 


subject has been treated in that oratorical and declamatory 
manner, that though we may be pleased with the eloquence 
of the narration, we receive no correct ideas of what the In- 
dians really were; or in what respects they resemble, or in 
what they differ, from the other branches of the human fa- 

We do not propose giving a detailed account of every 
thing belonging to the Indian life; for it would not only be 
tedious, but unnecessary, when not furnishing matter cha- 
racteristic of their social state. But while we avoid puerile 
and impertinent details, nothing should be wanting to give 
the general character of the people, upon whom we are wri- 
ting. With that of the American Indians we believe most 
readers are already familiar, from the general descriptions 
given by different travellers. Nevertheless, it may not be 
amiss to observe in these prefatory remarks; that the savage 
or hunter state of society, being the simplest in its nature, 
and having the fewest wants, necessarily produces great uni- 
formity of character, in every part of the world. To pro- 
vide sufficient food, raiment, and shelter, are undoubtedly 
the chief, if not the only consideration of savage existence; 
and in pursuit of these objects, life itself is spent. Intel- 
lectual or moral considerations are seldom called into action, 
and when excited are of the grossest kind. The weakness 
of human nature inclines them to bear the yoke of supersti- 
tion; and a natural resentment of injury, or the stimulus of 
pride, excites them to war. At such times, the social prin- 
ciple is called into action, and prevents the national ties 
from being completely broken. To this feeble sense of 
mutual dependence, must be attributed their ideas of law 
and government; in which by a tacit acquiescence, the most 
elderly or experienced men of the tribe acquire a certain 
political character, resembling the legislative department of 
regular governments; the other corresponding parts of 
which, are scarcely discernible. Such, in brief, was the ge- 
neral state of society in America, prior to its discovery by 
Columbus, and such may readily be acknowledged, is the ge- 
neral state of all savage nations, wherever they may be 
found. The illustration of this fact, for general readers, 
offers little instruction or amusement, but to the antiquarian 
or philosopher, certain details even on these subjects are ne- 
cessary, in elucidating their particular researches on the na- 
tural or moral history of man. 

Without entering, therefore, into uninteresting details of 
habits and manners, universal among all savages, and which 


depend upon the necessities of human life; our chief object 
will be: to give not only a correct picture in more general 
terms, but to exhibit in stronger lights, those particular cus- 
toms or usages, that may be considered as giving character to 
the piece; and which indeed constitute the points, upon which 
affinity to other nations may be proved, or affiliation be de- 

With respect to the analogies to be brought forward from 
the history of other nations foreign to America, and which 
may be supposed in a greater or less degree, to resemble those 
of our Indians; we propose introducing them in that manner, 
which will be least tedious and impertinent. Upon those 
features of resemblance which characterize human nature, 
nothing need be said. But upon those that are artificial, or 
more or less abstract in their nature, it becomes interesting 
to see the resemblances such as they are, that exist between 
people so widely separated from each other, whether we con- 
sider such things to have arisen from a natural sense of expe- 
diency or policy, or whether we regard them, as proving an 
ancient descent, from the common progenitors of the human 

It has become rather common of late, to undervalue com- 
parisons of nations with nations, according to their habits and 
manners; not simply, because writers have been injudicious 
in their analogical researches, and in the theories, they may 
have deduced from such resemblances, but also from the cir- 
cumstance, that tlie generality of readers, consider the cus- 
toms, manners, and institutions of nations, to be of a change- 
able and varying character; frequently assuming new and 
often very different aspects. Though we do not pretend to 
say that this is not partly true, we consider it very incorrect 
as a general assertion; and with some confidence appeal to all 
persons accustomed to antiquarian researches, whether there 
be much of important diflerence in the habits, manners, and 
institutions of nations, during the periods of many revolving 
ages. Among highly civilized nations, matters of taste and 
fashion, are perpetually modified or changed: the first princi- 
ples however are little affected, and even the practice or fash- 
ion, after a departure of many years, again treads in the steps, 
and assumes the guise, that characterized the days of our 
grandfathers, or their progenitors. But matters of a grave 
or sober kind do not thus change; they pass along the stream 
of time unaltered; generation after generation possess them, 
and hand them down to a posterity, who identifying them 
with their own personal feelings, are ignorant of the antiqui- 


ty of habits, manners, customs, and superstitions, that re- 
mount to the first origin of our race. 

How much of astronomy in use among us, is of the most 
ancient discovery? In the sublime language of Bailly, ''if 
we look at the heavens, ancient history is there written, an- 
cient fable is there portrayed, the very gods of antiquity still 
maintain their empire there." What history commemorates 
the first division of the heavens into constellations, under 
those appellations by which we, and the most ancient nations 
of the earth have known them? Who first propagated the 
doctrine of the ''skyey influences," which after having pass- 
ed through the hands of Chaldeans, Magi, and Brachmans, 
are yet stamped on our almanacks, for the superstitious guid- 
ance of our common people?* 

The names of our days, have continued long since the 
gods to whom they were consecrated have been abandoned, 
but the Sun's day, the Moon's day, and Thor's day, &c. yet 
shew forth the sunerstitions of our ancient pagan forefathers 
of Germanic blood; while our months, retain the names given 
them by the ancient Etruscans, or more modern Romans. 

How many pagan superstitions have been preserved in the 
bosom of our christian churches, where we should least ex- 
pect to find them. Yet the priest performs his duties in the 
dress of a Roman gentleman.! The almost sacrilegious an- 
tiquarian, shews, that the ancient fires of Baal, are now kind- 
led to the honor of St. John. J The cakes, that the prophet 
Jeremiah mourned to see made for the queen of heaven, are 
now made to honor St. Bridget:§ and the suppositious frank- 
incense of Horace, that melted without fire, now liquifies to 
honor saint Januarius. Ceres, under the name of the Har- 
vest Queen, II is yet drawn in procession by christian hands 
in the rural parts of England; the dance in honor of Priapus, 
is yet performed unsuspectingly around the May pole, IT the 
semi-annual revellings of our Scandinavian or German an- 
cestors, are yet continued under the modern names of Christ- 
mas, and Easter; and the fooleries of the Saturnalia and Lu- 

* It is not without some indignation, that 1 mention an Almanack printed 
A. D. 1829, for the use of the Farmers of Pennsylvania and Maryland; con- 
taining the days of the year, arranged according to the old style! that this in- 
flexible class of men, may plant and sow, on the same days as their great 
grandfathers had done. 

t Transl. Roman Missal, by Bishop England, xvi. 

I Collectanea Reb. Hibern. ii. 64. 65. 
§Ibid. 290. 

II Clark's Travels in Egypt, Syria, &c. ii. 139. 
^Maurice Ind. Antiq. vi. 8T. 94. 


percalia, are yet repeated on twelfth-day.^ and on the festi- 
val of St. Valentine.* 

The misletoe, is still in various parts of England, hung up 
in houses on Christmas eve; and fortunes divined by burning 
its leaves on twelfth night, t the very time the Druids an- 
ciently collected this plant. The superstitious natives of the 
Hebrides, and other parts of Great Britain, still walk from 
left to right around their druidical cairns, as their forefathers 
did long before the days of Czesar and Agricola. 

If we turn to law and politics, we find some of their most 
important features, involved in the earliest history of the 
German barbarians; and the Roman law, yet forms the basis 
of legal proceeding over the principal part of Europe. 

Travellers in our day in the East, shew, that nearly the 
same habits, manners, and customs, yet exist in those coun- 
tries where Abraham or Ishmael lived, or where Cyrus 
reigned; and the explanatory notes of our Bible, abound 
with extracts from recent travellers, explaining even modes 
of salutation, and terms of speech, made use of in the days 
of the patriarchs. Well may we say, as was said three 
thousand years ago by Solomon, "is there any thing whereof 
it may be said, see, this is new: it hath been already of old 
time, which was before us." 

Without going further into these details of matters foreign 
to our work, we presume the reader is satisfied, that after 
making all allowances for modern improvements and changes, 
it will still be found, that a surprising number of usages, 
customs, and superstitions, of the earliest ages of the world, 
are in use among us at this very time, and are yet in fashion. 

If such be the case among civilized nations, who change 
the most; should we not consider the usages and supersti- 
tions of ruder people, more permanent, and equally ancient? 
They are in fact incorporated into the very existence of 
their societies, nor can we see, how changes of any impor- 
tance, could arise among them. 

It is proper to observe, that in bringing forward customs and 
manners of other nations, analogous to those of the American 
Indians, we are not to be considered as having any other view 
in so doing, than to discover a general truth. We leave it to 
the reader to determine, whether such thmgsare to be consider- 

* Hone's Every Day Book, ii. 68, 222. To what an extent St. Valentine's day 
is observed in London, may be estimated by the statement of this author, 
who relates, "two hundred thousand letters beyond the usual daily average, 
pass through the two-penny post offices in London on this day." 

t Mallet's North. Antiq. ii note 146. 


ed OS analogies, or mere resemblances only. We think we 
shall do right, to remark them as they occur; and in thus col- 
lecting analogies from all nations, whose histories or descrip- 
tions are within our reach, this good will result, that we shall 
be enabled to judge more correctly, as to the exactness of any 
resemblance of our Indians, to any nation of the eastern con- 
tinent. And if we are unable to shew their particular origin, 
much is gained even by the negative proof of shewing what 
they are not. 

Proceeding then upon the assumption, that the Indian 
tribes of America throughout its extent, bore a general re- 
semblance to one another in the state of their societies, and 
with few exceptions; we shall for our convenience, divide 
their social history into two unequal divisions, one relating 
to the savage or barbarous tribes, and the other concerning 
those whom we may call demi-civilized. 

The savage proportion of the two Americas is very great, 
for it embraces nearly the whole continent. Those whom 
we consider half civilized, were only the Natchez and Flo- 
ridians, of the United States; the Mexicans, the Peruvians, 
and the Muyscas, a mountain people of Colombia. All other 
parts of America were in the possession of barbarous nations, 
differing little from each other, except as climate, or a pecu- 
liar topography, varied the general resemblance. 

We shall notice whatever is thought worthy of observa- 
tion among the savage tribes, under the following heads. 
Their habits, manufactures, government, laws, religion, and 

Of the demi-civilized tribes, more particular descriptions 
will be given, and we shall treat of each in separate chapters. 

On the Habitations of the Barbarous Jimerican Tribes. 

The greater part of the savage American tribes, can scarce- 
ly be said to have had any fixed residence; for, from their 
great improvidence, they were continually obliged to remove 
to those districts or shores, which fish, or other animals, 
guided by their instincts, selected for pasture, or the purpose 
of spawning. Hence at one time, the Indians are found 
along the shores of seas and rivers, in search offish or testa- 
ceous animals; and at another season, they are pursuing deer, 
buffaloe, and other quadrupeds, into the forests and moun- 
tains; without local attachment to any particular soil or shore, 
though circumscribed by what were considered the bounda- 


lies of Ihe national territory.* Some tribes, under a warm 
and genial sky, were less erratic, because a liberal soil pro- 
ducing either spontaneously, or with the least degree of cul- 
tivation, a variety of fruits or roots, the calls on their enter- 
prize and activity were less frequent, and that sloth, so 
grateful to all savages, was more abundantly indulged. 

The greater or less difficulty they find in procuring sub- 
sistence, therefore modifies essentially their habits, and when 
not absolutely controlled by climate, these circumstances de- 
termine the character of their dwellings, whether they are 
to be of the slightest materials, or of more durable construc- 
tion. The more fixed they are to one locality, the more 
commodious are their houses, and the greater is their atten- 
tion to agriculture, and the mechanic arts. 

Generally speaking, the houses of the savage tribes, were 
built by first fixing a number of saplins in the earth around 
a space of sufficient size, and bending their tops over to the 
opposite sides, where they were tied together; as is done in 
constructing our summer arbours. This frame was then cov- 
ered over with pieces of bark or coarse mats, sometimes 
plastered with clay, and with repeated coverings was made 
sufficiently tight and warm. In the centre of the roof, a hole 
was made to let out the smoke of the fire, which was kind- 
led in the middle of the floor. An aperture was left in the 
side of the hut for a door, which was occasionally closed by 
a mat or large skin; though, as they left no opening as a win- 
dow, the door answered a two-fold purpose in this particular. 

A village, consisted of a greater or less number of such 
buildings, collected together in a loose disorderly manner; 
and is thus described with great accuracy by Charlevoix. 
[Travels in Canada^ 240.) "Imagine you see a heap of ca- 
bins without order or being set on a line, some like cart 
houses, others like tunnels, built of bark, supported by posts, 
sometimes plastered on the outside with mud in a coarse 
manner: in a word built with less art, neatness and solidity, 
than the cabins of the beavers." 

Some tribes used tents, made by erecting a number of long 
poles tied together at one end, and then opening or separat- 
ing the lower ends over a circular space of ground. Upon 
these poles they fastened mats or skins sewed together as a 
covering, leaving openings for the escape of smoke, and for 

*Thus it happens, says Charlevoix, when speaking of the Sioux, "that a 
village which was last year on the cast side of the Mississippi, shall next 
year be on the west side, and that those who were at one time by the river 
St. Peters, are perhaps now far enough from it in some meadow." 


the entrance as observed above in the construction of the 
huts. These tents were chiefly used among the North Ame- 
rican tribes, and especially west of the Mississippi. The 
Mbayas and Guaycurus of Brazil, {Southey^s Braz. iii. 386, 
664.) also used tents covered with coarse mats. 

In the tropical and warmer parts of the continent, their 
huts were made after a similar fashion to those just described, 
though with little attention to any comfort but protection 
from rain. 

In the more inclement regions of the north, some tribes, 
as those of Oonelaska, &c. lived during the winter in caves 
under ground, and in the summer, in various temporary 
lodges. The Esquimaux built themselves vaulted habita- 
tions from frozen snow, cut into large parallelepipeds, which 
were laid in a regular manner like mason work, each layer 
projecting a little inward of the previous layer, until the 
whole terminated in a regular vault. In the summer time 
they lived in tents. Venegaa {Hist. Californ. i. 77) says, 
some of the Californian Indians in the winter time, lived in 
caves made in the sides of the mountains. 

The only South American tribes that lived in caves,.ac- 
cording to my knowledge, were the Machicuys and the Na- 
licuegas of Paraguay, who are noticed for this peculiarity by 
Azara, ii. 77. 155. 

In certain parts of South America, wJiere the country was 
liable to extensive inundations, many tribes fixed their hab- 
itations on trees, above the usual height of the overflowing 
waters. Columbus described certain Indians living in this 
manner on the coast of Veragua, the reason of which he was 
unable to conjecture. The mouths of the Orinoco are also 
thus inhabited according to Gumilla, {Hist. Orin. i. 226.) 
and Balboa on the shores of the Isthmus of Darien, observed 
the same thing. {Herrera, ii. 20.) 

Such in general, were the habitations and modes of living, 
among the more wandering and unsettled tribes. But there 
were others who lived in situations either where subsistence 
was more easily procured, or who derived a greater propor- 
tion of their food from agriculture. Such tribes had even com- 
fortable habitations, framed of good substantial materials. 
This may be considered generally the case, with those who 
lived chiefly on fish and other aquatic productions. The 
reader of Mackenzie's Voyages, or Lewis and Clark's Travels, 
cannot but be struck with this fact, for after describing the 
rude houses or tents of the Indians between the Atlantic 
ocean and the Rocky mountains, we find them on descend- 


ing the waters flowing from their western slopes, frequently 
expressing surprise at the superior construction, and commo- 
diousness of the houses of those tribes, who feed chiefly on 
salmon and other fish. Lewis and Clark have described some 
of those dwellings of very considerable dimensions, in which 
several families resided. Near the mouth of the Multnomah 
river, they speak of one, two hundred and twenty-six feet 
long; entirely above ground, under one roof, and divid- 
ed into seven apartments, each thirty feet square. {Lewis and 
Clark ii. 220. 237.) In another instance, they observed one of 
one hundred and sixty feet long, by forty in breadth. 

The art of the carpenter seems to have been in these parts 
of the north west coast, in much greater perfection than any 
where else in the savage districts of America. The travellers 
above mentioned, speak of wooden temples, and contrivances 
to catch fish, that must have been framed with great labour 
and exertion; and they, as well as navigators along these sea 
coasts, describe the natives as making with their rude tools 
of stone or bone, plank for houses and other purposes. Capt. 
Portlock speaks of plank, made by the natives of Portlock 
harbour, with their ''shocking tools," ten feet long, two and a 
half broad, and not more than one inch thick. In another part 
of his voyage, he speaks of plank, twenty or twenty-five feet 
in length, made in the same manner. {Portlock's Voy, 253. 

Capt. Cook says, the houses at Nootka Sound, {Voy. N. 
H. ii. 314,) are built of very long and broad plank. 

Marchand speaks with surprise, of the architecture of 
these people, and gives us accounts that are really extraordi- 
nary. He observes, {Voy. i. 500,) "We found houses with 
two stories, (one however is under ground,) fifty feet in 
length, thirty-five in breadth, and twelve or fifteen in height; 
each habitation with a portal, that occupies the whole eleva- 
tion of the fore front, surmounted with wooden statues, 
erect, and ornamented on its jambs, with carved figures of 
birds, fishes, and other animals." {See also Vol. i. 402, 404, 
418, &c.) 

Some of the houses at Nootka Sound, are very remarka- 
ble from the enormous size of the materials used in their 
construction. The following extract from Vancouver, ( Voy. 
iii. 310,) is not only interesting in its description, but 
will be a matter of future reference from another part of 
our work. 

"On the house of Maquinna, (at Nootka,) were three im- 
mense spars; the middle piece was the largest, and measured 


at the but end nearly five feet in diameter; this extended 
the whole length of the habitation, which was about one 
hundred feet long. It was placed on wooden pillars. That 
which supported it within the upper end of the house, was 
about fifteen feet in circumference. One or more houses in 
many of the deserted villages, as well as in most of the in- 
habited ones we had visited, were thus distinguished." 

Mears {Voy. i. 223,) is less explicit in his description, but 
says, that some of the rafters of houses on this coast, would 
render the mast of a first rate ship diminutive. 

Except in the particulars we have enumerated, there does 
not appear to be any thing which distinguishes the natives 
of this coast, from their savage brethren east of the Rocky 
mountains; though in such works, they surpass all other 
tribes in North America, excepting the Natchez, and Mexi- 
cans, who were demicivilized people; and of whom we 
shall treat in subsequent chapters. 

In South America, we again meet with more sedentary 
savage tribes, who lived in houses of great extent, contain- 
ing a number of families under one common roof. 

On the coast of Venezuela, [Herrera, i. 216,) the natives 
built houses that contained above one hundred and fifty 

The Tupinambas of Brazil, {Southey, Hist. Braz. i. 185,) 
lived in houses one hundred and fifty feet in length, by 
fourteen in breadth, and twelve feet high, well thatched 
with palm leaves. Six or seven such houses constituted a 
town, and were built so as to enclose an area for general use 
and convenience. 

Purchas {Pilgrims, iv. 1226,) says, some of these houses 
were two hundred yards in length. 

The Guaycurus of Paraguay, [Southey, Braz. i. 121,) had 
similar habitations, capable of holding several hundred people. 

Certain nations foreign to America, lived in houses equally 
extensive with those just noticed. At Easter island. La 
Peyrouse, {Voyages, iii. 194,) describes one, in the shape 
of a canoe turned bottom up, which measured three hundred 
and ten feet in length, by ten feet in breadth, and ten high 
in the middle, but tapering to the ends to three or four feet. 

At Otaheite, were houses two hundred feet in length, and 
thirty broad, and at Savu, near Timor, were some, four 
hundred feet in length. {Hawksworth, Voy. ii. 213, iii. 

The inhabitants of the Garrow Hills, {As. Res. iii. 18, 23,) 
have some houses that measure one hundred and fifty feet 
long by forty broad. 


These instances are altogether referrible to that state of 
society, which either for purposes of security, or from the 
comparative ease with which subsistence is procured, has 
fixed the inhabitants to a particular soil, the consequences of 
which may be appreciated in a variety of other matters also 
depending upon sedentary habits, of which the most impor- 
tant perhaps is agriculture. 

Of the Agriculture and Subsistence of the Barbarous In- 
dians of America. 

The Indians of North America, consumed but an uncer- 
tain proportion of food derived from agricultural labour. 
They added, it is true, to the various kinds of animal food, 
which may be considered their chief support, fruits, berries, 
nuts and roots of spontaneous growth; but the vegetable 
substances raised by their own industry, constituted but a 
small part of their subsistence. In making these remarks, 
however, it must be understood, that we are speaking of the 
more barbarous tribes; for those Indians who lived under a 
more regular form of government, constituting a half civi- 
lized state of society, it would seem, lived chiefly upon 
vegetables. But these particulars we shall notice under the 
different chapters, that treat of such people. The savages 
of South America were much more agricultural in their ha- 
bits, than those of the North. 

The nature of their diet, was much influenced by climate; 
for whilst the northern Indians sometimes eat the inner bark 
of certain pine trees, and that moss, (tripe of the rock,) 
which necessity alone has termed edible, those of the south 
lived on cocoa nuts, plantains, bananas, and other fruits, 
which nature spontaneously produced in regular succession. 
We do not purpose, however, to enumerate the indigenous 
fruits or roots of the continent, any further than as they 
were raised, and cultivated, by the Indians for their subsis- 

The plant most extensively cultivated, was the Indian 
corn, (Zea mays,) which was raised universally throughout 
America, from the borders of the Arctic regions of the 
north, to Patagonia in the south. 

The next plant, in point of extensive cultivation, was the 
mandioc, yucca, or cassava.* (Jatropa, of several species.) 

* Cassava properly means the bread made of the mandioc root, though it is 
now used as a sjnonyme. 

Tapioca is a preparation from this root, which has been derived, as well 
as its name, from the savages of Brazil. 


This root was for the most part, first grated or scraped 
into a pulp, from which the juice was carefully expressed, 
and then baked into bread. As this root is poisonous with- 
out such a preparation, it is a curious matter, to comprehend 
how its use has prevailed to such a considerable degree 
among so many rude tribes. 

The cultivation of the cassava, prevailed in Paraguay, 
Brazil, Cumana, and the West India islands; in fine, in all 
that immense country east of the Andes, to the shores of the 
Atlantic ocean. It scarcely appears to have been raised in 
the mountainous parts of the now republic of Colombia, nor 
in Mexico, though the sweet species, according to Clavigero, 
grew in this last kingdom, where it was eaten after being 
simply boiled, it not being poisonous. But it does not ap- 
pear to me, that the Mexicans cultivated it, nor any other 
people to the northward of them, though Herrera, v. 284, 
and Venegas, i. 44, describe it as used for food in California, 
under its name yucca, and Jefferson inserts it in his list of 
plants indigenous to Virginia. 

The inhabitants of the West India islands, who undoubt- 
edly were descendants of the Arrowacks and Caraibs of 
Guayana, and Brazil, carried this plant and the manner of 
preparing it for bread, throughout all those islands. 

Nothing but great inattention could have referred the in- 
troduction of the cassava, to the importation of negroes 
from Africa. Peter Martyr describes it as being cultivated 
in Hayti, when Columbus first discovered that island, and 
Cabral observed it in Brazil, when he first landed on that 
coast, in A. D. 1500. Pigafetta, and all the earlier travel- 
lers, describe it as being extensively cultivated in Brazil, 
Paraguay, &c. 

The Indians of both North and South America, cultivated 
also several different kinds of beans and peas, and several spe- 
cies of cucurbita, such as pumpkins, squashes, cymlins, 
water-mellons, &c. The sun flower, (Helianthus,) was also 
partially cultivated for its seed, which were eaten after being 
parched, and beat into a meal between two stones. As far 
north as Maryland, they raised the sweet potato, (Con- 
volvulus batatus. ) 

Columbus found pumpkins, beans, sweet potatoes, and 
yams, (Dioscorca,) in the West India islands. They were 
al^o cultivated in Mexico, and in various parts of South 
America, though it is perhaps impossible to assiga their li- 


In Mexico, the natives cultivated other plants and roots of 
a circumscribed use, which will be noticed generall)', when 
treating of that people. They also raised certain vegetable 
condiments, as peppers, (capsicum,) tomatoes, (solanum,) 
&c. ; which mark the superiority of their social condition. 

In the mountains of New Grenada, now the republic of 
Colombia, in Peru, and Chili, certain tribes cultivated the 
quinoa, a species of chenopodium, which is denominated 
by the older travellers in those countries, rice, or Peruvian 

The common potato, (solanum tuberosum,) was cultivated, 
according to Humboldt, {Pol. Essay, ii. 345,) at the time 
of the discovery, in New Grenada, Quito, Peru and Chili; 
on all the Cordillera of the Andes, from the 40° of south to 
the 5° north latitude.* It seems certain, that it was not 
known in Mexico, before the conquest of Cortez. 

In Chili according to Molina, {Hist. Chili, i. 90,) two 
species of grain were cultivated by the natives, under the 
names of magu and tucca. (Herrera, v. 73, says teca,) 
from which bread was made. One of these plants according 
to him, was a species of rye, and the other of barley. 

♦Though it is a common tradition, that potatoes were indigenous in Vir- 
ginia, or rather North Carolina, and that Sir Walter Raleigh carried them 
from thence to England, the opinion most prevalent among the learned is, 
that Sir Walter, received them from South America in the first instance. 
The roots called openauk, which are described by Herriot, (Hackluyt, iii. 
273,) agree however in description with potatoes; for he says, "they are 
a kind of roots of round form, some of the bigness of walnuts, some far 
greater, which are found in moist and marshy grounds, growing many to- 
gether one by another in ropes, as though they were fastened by a string." 
But from various other descriptions given by travellers in other parts, it 
seems to me that some plant with tuberous roots, other than potatoes, may 
be meant. Thus in Purchas, (Pilgrivis, iv. 1661,) it is said, that at Elizabeths 
islands, (near Nantucket,) "there are great store of ground nuts, forty to- 
gether on a string, some of them as big as hens eggs, they grow not two 
inches under ground, the which nuts we found to be as good as potatoes." 
Now, in this last description the resemblance to potatoes, is as striking as 
that of the openauk, and yet they were not potatoes, for they are compared 
to them. Kalm, (Travels, i, 385,) also says, the roots of the hopnis or hap- 
nis, (Glycene,) resemble potatoes, and were boiled by the Indians for food. 

We have been once or twice nearly misled, by the vague descriptions of 
some modern travellers in their mention of certain plants, as to suppose the 
potato (solanum,) indigenous to North America. Adair relates that _^"a 
sort of wild potato grows plentifully in the low lands from South Carolina 
to the Mississippi." But as the SoZonwm has not been observed by any bota- 
nist in those regions, and as Romans, (Hist. Florida, 84,) says "a species of 
convolvulus, with a tuberous root, is found in the low cane grounds of Flori- 
da," I presume it to be the potato of Adair. 

Lewis and Clark, (Exped. Rocky Mountains, i. 24,) also mention "a kind of 
wild potato," growing on the banks of the Missouri river. This we consi- 
der was the Psoralea esculenla, (of Nuttal,) which is frequently mentioned in 
the narrative of Long's Expedition to the Rocky mountains. 


The plantain, and various other fruits, were no doubt oc- 
casionally planted by the barbarous tribes; but generally 
speaking, they appear to have paid very little attention to 
their cultivation. The Mexicans, in addition to such fruits, 
raised also the cocoa, (Theobroma) pimento, (Myrtus,) &c. 

Tobacco, (Nicotiana) probably of several different kinds, as 
well as some other narcotic plants, were raised from Canada to 
Patagonia, for the purposes of smoking or snuffing. In the 
W. India islands, Mexico, and all over South America, cotton 
was cultivated as a material for the manufacture of clothing. 

The Chippeways, and other northern Indians, manufac- 
tured in large quantities, sugar or syrup from the sugar 
maple, (Acer Sacharinum,) as it grew in the forests. 

Some of the more northern Indians, who had not the sugar 
maple, made a kind of coarse sugar from the birch tree; 
(Dobb's Hudson Bay, 42.) which they used with their meat. 
In Mexico, sugar was manufactured from the maize stalks. 

In this section, we shall also introduce, the few observations 
we have to make upon the subject of animal food, for as the 
Indians eat flesh, fish, fowl, and insects, it would be unneces- 
sary to more than mention the anomalies of their diet. 
Throughout all North America, excepting the Natchez and 
Mexicans, I believe there were but few instances of the In- 
dians domesticating animals for food. In the West India 
islands, Columbus found parrots, ducks, and the alco, an ani- 
mal something resembling a dog, domesticated by the natives. 
{Pink. Jim. Voy. ii. 93; Edward's W. Indies, \. 95; Hum- 
boldVs Pers. Nar. v. 162.) 

The natives of Paraguay and Brazil, partially domestica- 
ted ducks, parrots, and monkeys, for food. (Southey's Bra- 
zil, i. 107. 127, &c. 

The Brazilian tribes, also, were very generally cannibals, 
and it was one of the most inveterate practices the mission- 
aries had to overcome. Azara undertakes to deny this, but 
nothing is more clear by the narration of all the earlier tra- 
vellers. It is not unreasonable to suppose, that the habit of 
eating monkeys, which was general among them, tended to 
render this practice less abhorrent. 

Cannibalism cannot be charged to any Indians of America 
but those living in the countries watered by the Orinoco and 
Amazon rivers, or to their descendants inhabiting the West 
India islands- If such practices occurred elsewhere, they 
were both rare and under restricted circumstances. But in 
Brazil, &c. they actually feasted on the human body. 


In preserving animal food, the South American Indians, 
cut the meat into thin slices, which they dried by the heat 
and smoke of fires, kindled under the wooden grate or frame 
upon which the meat was laid. This grate they called bou- 
can.* This mode of curing beef, is extensively used in South 
America at the present time, and is called jerking the beef. 
The pemican of the northern Indians, is made in a similar 
way, though fire is not always used in the preparation. Fish 
was also dried and prepared in a similar manner, among the 
South Americans. {Humboldt, Pers. Nar. v. 547.) 

In all these instances, the meats were prepared without 
salt; nor do I know but of one region, in which the Indians 
preserved their meats with that substance; this was among 
the demi-civilized Muyscas, {Herrera, v. 77,) and on the 
coast near Carthagena, &c. {Hackluyt, W. Indies, 62, 122, 

It has been long known, that some of the South American 
tribes, during those seasons of the year, in which nutriment 
is procured with difficulty, in addition to their scanty diet, 
eat, or rather swallow, a quantity of clay, which has been 
slightly roasted over a fire. This practice, however extra- 
ordinary it may seem, is much more general than one would 
be apt to imagine. 

Baron Humboldt {Pers. Nar. v. 639,) has written exten- 
sively upon this custom, and shews it to have been practiced 
in various parts of the world, as among the negroes of the 
coast of Guinea, in the island of Java, New Caledonia, and 
even in certain parts of Germany. To these instances, we 
add that some of the savages of Florida, according to Robert- 
son, {Hist. Jlmerica, ii. 452,) are reported to have eaten a 
kind of unctuous earth; and Malte Brun {Geog. book 37,) 
says, the Tungusians, eat a soft and almost fluid clay, either 
by itself or with milk, without suffering inconvenience from 
it: they call it rock butter. 

As it seems inipossible, that the human system can derive 
any nourishment from such substances, it is most reasonable 
to suppose, that the effect produced is merely mechanical, 
and removes the sensation of hunger, either by that of full- 
ness, or by some action on the gastric juices. 

After these instances, it would be reasonable to suppose, 
that the American Indians would eat any thing that might 
be converted into nutriment, and so they certainly did, 
speaking generally; yet in various instances, different kinds 

• The Buccaneers so famous in the history of Spanish America, derived 
that appellation from their habit of llius preparing meat. 


of animals were rejected by Ihem as improper food. Thus 
Rochefort says, the Caraibs held in abhorrence the flesh of 
the pecary, manati, and the turtle. {Edwards' W. Indies, i. 
146.) A curious inconsistency among a nation of cannibals! 

The Kaluschians, (North West coast of America,) who eat 
sea dogs, cuttle fish, sea weeds, and train oil, will not eat the 
fat of the whale, which according to Langsdorff, {Voyages^ 
411,) "seems from some prejudice to be forbidden them; for 
they shew the same kind of horror at it, that a Jew does at 
the idea of eating swine's flesh." 

Perhaps these inconsistencies are explained, by the reasons 
which the Abipones of Brazil assign for a similar prohibition 
of certain kinds of animal food; namely, that their courage 
was influenced by their diet.* They therefore preferred the 
rank flesh of the jaguar, and avoided mutton; they would eat 
the wild boar, but they considered the tame hog an abomina- 
tion. The Chiriguannas, would not eat the vicuna, for fear 
they would grow woolly. {Southey^s Hist. Brazil, iii. 
165, 412.) 

Similar inconsistencies, have also prevailed among other 
nations than the Americans. Caesar, {Bel. Gal. lib. 5, 
chap. X.) says, that the Britons, ''thought it unlawful to eat 
hares, pullets, or geese; though they bred these animals for 

Mariner {Jicct. Tonga Ids. 342,) observes, the natives of 
the Friendly islands consider the turtle a prohibited food, on 
account of a tradition held among them. 

It is not improbable, that distinctions between animals for 
purposes of food, have prevailed more or less with all na- 
tions. The Jews were very particularly instructed upon this 
point; yet it is evident, the distinction of clean, and unclean 
animals, existed before the flood; for Noah is distinctly stated 
to have received the two classes into the ark, in very differ- 
ent proportions. {Genesis, chap. 7, verses 2 and 8.) 

Garcilazo {Royal Commentaries, 315,) says, that the 
Pastous, a nation of the Peruvian empire, though "vile and 
sordid," eat no kind of flesh, saying they were not dogs. I 
believe they were the only people of America distinguished 
by this peculiarity. 

*In Long's Exped. Rocky mountains, i. 325, &c. is a long list of prohibited 
articles of food, among the different bands of the Omawhaw nation. In 
these instances, the prohibition seems to arise exclusively from superstitious 


Of the Clothing, and other manufactures, of tlie Bar- 
barous Indians. 

The nature of the clothing used by the Indians, depended 
upon climate. In the northern parts of the continent, and in 
the extreme south, they covered themselves chiefly with furs 
and skins, while in the warm and tropical regions, they went 
either nearly naked, or wore garments manufactured from 
cotton, or from the fibrous barks of many different plants. 

The Esquimaux, in addition to the warm clothing that 
their rigorous climate required, had to provide also against 
the effects of water, to which their occupation as fishermen, 
continually exposed them. This was effected either directly 
or indirectly by means of the train oil, with which their seal 
skin dresses were continually smeared. 

In the more temperate regions of America, the natives 
made their inner garments of a kind of shammy leather, 
which was manufactured, after removing the hair, by rubbing 
the skin for some time with the brains of animals, and fre- 
quent smoking over the fire. 

They also manufactured a coarse kind of cloth from the 
wild hemp, or other plants with fibrous bark. Kalm {Trav- 
els, i. 413,) observed on his journey among the Six nations, 
"the squaws making a stuff, or cloth, from the apocynum ca- 
nabinum.* They had no distaff, but rolled the filaments up- 
on their naked thighs, and made strings of them, which they 
died of various colours, and worked into stuffs very ingeni- 
ously." The Indians of Virginia, made a similar fabric. 
{Purchas. iv. 1699.) 

Smith describes the Virginia Indians, as frequently wear- 
ing mantles in the winter season made of feathers, "so pret- 
tily wrought and woven with threads, that nothing could be 
discerned but the feathers." {Purchas, iv. 1698.) Hecke- 
welder {Hist, and Lit. Trans. 194,) describes the Dela- 
vvares, making a similar manufacture, and Langsdorf, (/^^oy. 
J 39,) mentions the same kind of mantle as being used in 

Among certain tribes of the North West coast, they man- 
ufactured a coarse kind of vegetable clolh, probably like that 
noticed by Kalm as above quoted, and besides these made 
others of wool or hair, manufactured probably after a similar 
jirocess. Tlie following description given by Capt. Cook, 

* Of this plant, tlie northern Indians also made fishing nets, pouches, &c. 
i; has been used as a substitute for (lax by the whites. {Kalm, i. 103 Ihit- 
cliinson's Hist. Mass. i. 414 ) 


{Voy. N. Hem, ii. 325,) wc deem sufficiently characteristic, 
to extract in his own words: 

"The hempen garments of the people at Nootka, are made 
of the bark of a species of pine tree, beat into a hempen 
state; it is not spun, but after being properly prepared, is 
spread upon a stick which is fastened across two others, that 
stand upright. The manufacturer knots this bark across 
with small plaited threads, at the distance of half an inch 
from each other. Though by this method, it be not so 
close or firm as cloth that is woven, yet the bunches between 
the knots make it sufficiently impervious to the air, by fil- 
ling up the interstices, and it has the additional advantage of 
being softer and more pliable.* 

"Their woollen garments, though probably manufactured 
in the same manner, have the strongest resemblance to wo- 
ven cloth. They are of different degress of fineness, some 
resembling our coarser rugs and blankets, and others are al- 
most equal to our finest sorts; or, even softer, and certainly 
warmer, &c. The various figures which are very artificially 
inserted in them, destroy the supposition of their having 
been wrought in a loom. The wool of which they are made, 
seems to be taken fi-om different animals, among which are, 
the wolf, and brown lynx." 

La Pey rouse {Voyage ii. 14S,) says, "these woollen gar- 
ments are made from the hair of different animals, and is 
spun into yarn, with which, by the help of a needle, they 
fabricate a tissue equal to our tapestry." 

Vancouver, {Voyage^ iii. 250,) saw a chief clothed in a 
fine large mantle, made from the wool of the mountain 
sheep. But one other people of North America, made this 
woollen cloth according to our knowledge. Charlevoix, 
{Travels, 292,) says, that the women of the Illinois, spin 
the wool of the bison, and make garments of it which they 
dye of various colours. As the hide of this animal, prepared 
with the fur or wool on it, makes an excellent winter cloak, 
it most probably superseded the more tedious manufacture, 
of spinning and weaving the fur into clothing. 

In Peru and Chili, we again find clothing manufactured 
from hair or wool, but the people of these countries were 
half civilized, and do not fall under our present considera- 

* Captain Cook says, (Voy. to N. Hemis. ii. 271,) that the bark dresses 
of the natives of Nootka, &c. were manufactured exactly in the same man= 
ner with those made by the New Zelauders. 


In Patagonia, according to Falkner, {De.^crip. Patagonia^ 
128,) some of the Indians make or weave, fine mantles from 
woollen yarn of the Guanaco,"beautifully dyed with many co- 
lours, which when wrapped round their bodies, reach from 
the shoulders to the calf of the leg." 

In Mexico, the West India islands, and over South Ame- 
rica, the natives made their clothing partially from skins 
or leather, but chiefly from cotton* and wild hemp, which 
was spun with a distaff twirled in the hand; and afterwards 
woven in a rude loom. Both of these instruments, may be 
seen among the figures of the Mexican hieroglyphics. Co- 
lumbus, {Pink. American Voyages^ ii. 93,) found looms in 
the island of Gaudaloupe, which he compares to those used 
at that time in Spain and Italy, for the purpose of making 

The spindle was used among the Guaranis of Brazil, even 
whilst they were walking about. {Southey^s Hist. Brazil, 
i. 243.) 

As may be readily supposed, the cloths thus made, were 
of various degrees of fineness; yet the Tupinambas, (Pur- 
chase Pilgrims, iv. 1342,) are reported to have manufactured 
cotton so fine, that clothing made from their fabrics, when 
taken to France, were thought to be silk. I presume this 
must have been from very careless examination, or perhaps 
instead of being cotton, the cloth in question was made from 
thistle lint, or some other such substance, which they spun, 
manufactured, and also dyed of various colours. {Southey's 
Brazil, i. 124.) Charlevoix also notices the manufacture of 
nettle lint, among the South American Indians. 

In the West Indies, and certain parts of South America, 
both men and women went naked, excepting perhaps occa- 
sionally, a small cover or flap made of various materials, 
which was used simply for purposes of decency; though 
even this was very often omitted. Columbus describes them 
in this state of entire nudity; and Sir Walter Raleigh ob- 
served the same thing in Guaiana. The Spanish writers 
enumerate many other instances. Even in North America, 
during warm weather, the Indians whether male or female, 
used nothing but the breech cloth; and in the winter, only 
wore in addition a mantle of fur, which was girt round the 
loins, and then muffled round the neck or shoulders with the 

* Cotton answered every purpose among the West Indians, and Sooth Ame- 
ricans, to which the wild hemp or flax is applied among the more northern 
tribes. The hammock was derived from them, as well as its name, which 
is a Haytien word It was nearly of universal uie in South America. 


hands, or tied with a string. {Hist, of Virginia by a Na- 
tive, 141.) 

But speaking more explicitly, the dress of the North 
American Indians, consisted of a shirt without a collar, and 
sometimes without sleeves, made of their chamois leather, 
which came half way down the thigh, and was fastened 
round the middle of the body. They wore on their legs, 
leather leggings, that came a little above where the shirt ter- 
minated, and they protected their feet by mocasins of the 
same material, or simply the skin of some animals leg, 
drawn over the foot. Over their shoulders, they wore a man- 
tle of fur, which served them at night instead of a bed. 

In the winter, when a deep snow lay on the ground, the 
northern Indians attached to their feet a contrivance called 
''snow shoes." These are two light but strong frames of 
wood, several feet in length, with six or nine inches of 
breadth, covered with the skin of an animal. In this manner 
they were able to walk without sinking in the snow. The 
Laplanders, Kamtchadales, &c. use the same contrivance. 

The dress of the women was very nearly the same as that 
of the men, their chemise, however, was more loose, and 
came down to the knee, or a little lower. 

Both sexes decorated their garments with beads of wam- 
pum, porcupine quills dyed of various colours, feathers, 
fringes, pieces of copper, coarse pearls, &.c. and often paint- 
ed the inside of their mantles with showy colours, arranged 
in various fanciful figures. 

The dress of the South Americans, was, for the most part, 
a shirt, of greater or less length, made of cotton, to which 
they added a mantle, or such other clothing, as necessity 
might require from their local situations, when near or on 
mountains, &.c. 

The mantle, as worn in Brazil, Chili, &c. was called 
aobaci or poncho. It was about two yards in length, by 
about one in breadth. In the middle of this cloth was a slit, 
made longitudinally, through which the head was passed, 
and the garment hung thus around the whole person. This 
kind of mantle was used among the people of Otaheite. 

In very cold weather, the Indians may have covered their 
heads with a kind of hood, as was done by the Esquimaux; 
but I have not observed any head dress,* to be worn among 

* That is, for protection; for they very often wore featliers, and other mat- 
ters which they considered ornamental, stuck in their hair, or in a fillet tied 
round the head. The natives of the north west coast, in time of rain cover- 
ed tlie head with a conical basket, which was woven so close that when not 
thus employed, was used to hold water. {Lewla and Clark, ii- liJG ) But 
these baskets cannot be considered but as accidental coverin'r'j fur the head 


the barbarous tribes, except those on the coast of Paria, a 
circumstance mentioned by Herrera, (i. 192, 197,) and 
which must be there considered as indicating some degree 
of civilized manners, as not being necessary from the warmth 
of climate. 

Their manufactures, are referrible to more particular heads; 
but to speak in general terms, we may say they were both 
few and rude. If they manufactured wood, it was done 
partly with sharp stones, bones, shells, &c., and partly by 
fire, with which and invincible patience, they cut down 
trees, and made canoes, mortars for pounding corn, troughs, 
bowls, &c., for domestic purposes.* 

Stones and flints they brought to the desired shape, by 
gradually breaking off small pieces with another stone, and 
sometimes by long continued rubbing or grinding. By this 
means I have seen a piece of very compact quartz, wrought 
into a convenient shape, which must have required the la- 
bour of many months. 

They also made a coarse pottery of clay, but little supe- 
rior to our tiles in quality, and which were unglazed. Some 
of the tribes adjacent to the river Mississippi, to a finer clay 
added pounded muscle shells, and made a ware, according to 
the Portuguese gentleman who accompanied Soto, not infe- 
rior to the ordinary earthen ware of Portugal. 

According to Ligon, {Edwainls^ West Indies, i, 5G,) the 
Caraibs of the West India islands, made a handsome light 
pottery, equal to that made in England, A. D. 1647. 

The Tupinambas of Brazil, {Southey^s Hist. Brazil, i. 
244,) who were in many respects superior to other savages 
of America, made by their women earthen vessels large 
enough to bury their dead in erect; and by means of a white 
liquor, glazed the inside as well as if it had been done in 
Europe. Purchas {Pilgrims, iv. 1203,) relates, that they 
made pots, that looked as if they were gilded, some of 
which would hold thirty or forty gallons. 

This glazing, as it is called, was nothing more than a var- 
nish, made from some of the gums peculiar to the country, 
of which the algaraho, seems to have been most commonly 
used. {Himiboldt Pers. Nar. v. 157, 285.) 

The savage nations of America, made but little use of me- 
tals, and of those kinds only, that are found in a virgin or 

* When the North American tribes boiled their food, it was accomplished 
by bark or wooden kettles, into which stones made red hot were thrown 
from time to time, until tlie mess was siillieicntly cooked. From their wan- 
dering course of life, earthen ware would have been continually broken, and 
not having metal pnts, thf.y were forced into Ihis contrivance. 


metallic state. Gold and silver, they pounded or beat into 
plates, bracelets, and other rude ornaments. In the larger 
West India islands, parts of the isthmus of Darien, and 
northern coasts of South America, these decorations made 
from the precious metals were seen in such numbers, as to 
excite the cupidity of the first discoverers to the commis- 
sion of crimes, unexampled for their atrocity. 

Copper was of much more universal use; for its mines 
were more widely distributed over the continent, and its 
evident superiority to their stone weapons and implements, 
had, in certain places, caused it to be used for such purposes. 
However, generally speaking, it was sufBciently rare to be 
esteemed ornamental, and perhaps a much larger proportion 
of it was used for personal decoration, than for matters of 
utility or defence. But, in a greater or less degree, it appears 
to have been used throughout all America. On the Atlantic 
coasts, it was noticed by all the earlier navigators, from 
Nova Scotia to Patagonia. In Mexico and Peru, it was ap- 
plied to those purposes for which we use iron, and they were 
enabled to harden and temper it to that degree, that it does 
not appear to have been much, if any ways inferior, to our 
more ordinary cutting tools and instruments. 

Iron, which was undoubtedly meteoric, was made use of 
for knives, by an ingenious contrivance of a band of Esqui- 
maux, as is related in the Polar expedition of Captains Ross 
and Parry. 

I have met with no other account of iron being found 
among the American Indians, where it could not be traced 
to communications with civilized nations, unless it be, that 
the iron knives found among the natives of the North West 
coast by La Peyrouse, {Voy. ii, 88,) were also of meteoric 
origin, which he says were ''as soft as lead, and as easy to 
be cut." I apprehend, however, there must be some mis- 
take in this statement. 

After considering their manufactures, we seem naturally 
led to notice their contrivances for vsaving human labour, 
which however are referrible but to one head, namely, the 
use of animals for draught. 

The denii-civilized Peruvians, trained the lama for this 
purpose, and many tribes in North America, used dogs for 
drawing burthens. The instances are so numerous, that it is 
really surprising, some writers should have disputed the 
fact, that dogs were found in America, before Europeans im- 
ported them hither. 


Solo found numbers of dogs in Florida, A. D. 1540; and 
the early accounts of Louisiana, constantly speak of them 
as being there used for draft. [Du Pratz, i. 110, &c.) 

Frobisher, A. D. 1577, {HacJcluyt, iii. 37, 66,) describes 
the Esquimaux, as yoking dogs not much unlike wolves, to 
their sledges. The Greenlanders have the same race of 
dogs, and use them in like manner. {Egede, 63.) Kalm, 
Travels, ii. 366,) says, that the Esquimaux, for centuries 
back, have had dogs, which they used both for hunting and 
drawing their sledges. 

Coronado, in his expedition to Cibola, A. D. 1540, de- 
scribes the Indians in that region, as using dogs for purposes 
of draft. {Hackhiyt, iii. 374, &c.) 

0/ the JlmusementSy or Recreations, of the Barbarous 
Jlinerican Indians. 

Under this head, we propose to enumerate those gratifica- 
tions, with which the savage tribes indulged themselves, du- 
ring the leisure moments that occurred after successful hunt- 
ing, or when their natural wants being satisfied, they sought 
relief from the tedium of idleness, in those amusements or 
gratifications, that the barbarity of their social state permit- 
ted them to employ. 

As may be easily supposed, there was little intellectual in 
their amusements; though in some instances, they appear to 
have used fictitious tales, and moral apologues, not uninter- 
esting. Mr. Schoolcraft has related several of these fie 
tions in his tour, and there are a few printed in the transac- 
tions of the Irish academy, ix. 101. 

They sometimes amused themselves with wrestling, leap- 
ing, running foot races, shooting with the bow, and such 
other recreations, as all rude nations naturally engage in for 

A very masculine game, something resembling cricket or 
foot ball, was played by them throughout the whole conti- 
nent, whose general character may be understood from the 
following description of it, as practised among the Choctaws, 
*'The ball is made of a piece of scraped deer skin, mois- 
tened, and stufled hard with hair, and strongly sewed with 
sinews. The game is played by two parties, with short 
sticks, who contend with each other in driving the ball be- 
tween two opposite goals, about five hundred yards apart." 
There were some variations in the manner of playing this 
game, that are not deemed worthy of particular notice. 


The Mexicans, for instance, struck their balls with the arm, 
shoulder, knee, &c., the use of the hand and foot being pro- 
hibited. Similar games of ball, have been played all over 
the world, and are common in Sumatra, &c. {^Marsden, Su- 
matra, 237. ForresVs Voy. 300.) 

Another game, which we shall call by its Choctaw names 
Chungke, was played by several North American tribes. 
It is thus described. {Adair^s American Indians, 402.) 
*'After the ground has been smoothed for the purpose, 
the Choctaw take a stone about two fingers broad at the 
edge, and two spans round; each party, (two or three only 
play at a time,) has a pole about eight feet long, which when 
the stone is rolled along the ground, they throw after it, and 
who ever throws nearest the stone, counts towards the game. 
The stones which they now use, were in immemorial time 
rubbed smooth on the rocks with prodigious labour; they 
are kept from generation to generation, and belong to the 

I can vouch for the great labour employed in the manu- 
facture of these stones, from one found in Virginia, near the 
Potomac, which was brought to me. It was of unusually 
compact quartz, and was like the truck wheel of a ship's gun 
carriage, about six inches in diameter, and two in thickness 
at the circumference. It was dished in on both sides, until 
a hole was made in the centre of about an inch in diameter. 
The whole stone was regularly formed, and well smoothed 
or polished. 

Though this game was played by several other nations, 
they generally used a wooden hoop, in lieu of a stone, 
whose fabrication requires such considerable labour. From 
this latter circumstance, I am induced to believe, that those 
smooth stones possessed by the Choctaws, were not made by 
them, but have been procured by some means or other, 
from the ancient demi-civilized Natchez, Taensas, &c., who 
were an abject people, living under a despotic form of go- 

I have met with nothing analogous to this game, either in 
South America, or in any part of the eastern continent; un- 
less it be that the Sandwich islanders amused themselves 
with something similar. Captain Cook, {Voy. N. Hem. \\. 
237,) observes, "they play at howls with pieces of whetstone 
of about a pound weight, shaped somewhat like a small 
cheese, but rounded at the sides and edges, and nicely po- 


The Araucanians of Chili, {Molina Hist. Chilis ii, 109,) 
amused themselves with a game, precisely like that called 
hy our boys, bandy. This game is also described by Ste- 
venson. {Travels in South %/lincrica, i. 17.) 

The game of the dish or platter, consisted in throwing up 
small pieces of flat bones or plum stones, coloured differ- 
ently on either side, and which were caught in a dish, or on 
a mat; and according to the coloured sides uppermost, the 
parties won or lost. This game was in general use among 
the more northern tribes of North America; see Charlevoix, 
Mackenzie, Lewis and Clark's Travels, &c. It does not ap- 
pear to have been used in South America. There was a 
game played among the Algonquin tribes called the game of 
straws; in which two hundred and one straws, about six 
inches in length, were employed. {Charlevoix's Travels., 
226.) It is too uninteresting to be further described. Mar- 
chand, {Voy. i. 448,) observed, I presume, the same game 
on the North West Coast, but there only fifty-two small twigs 
or straws were used. 

The Abbe Molina, {Hist. Chili^ ii. 108.) reports, that the 
Araucanians of Chili, play chess, which game has been 
known to them from time immemorial, by the name of 

I cannot bring myself to believe this relation, notwith- 
standing the very great antiquity of this game in the eastern 
continent. The Abbe lias not given any detailed account of 
ihe manner in which it played; and I suspect, either an 
error in the Knglish translation of his history of Chili, or 
that the game played (here, has but a very remote analogy 
to chess. 

With these, and some other games, too uninteresting to be 
described, the Indians gambled to the greatest excess; they 
staked furniture, tools, clothes, and even their liberty, on 
the hazard of the game, with all the madness and folly that 
characterized the ancient Germans, as related by Tacitus, 
{Mor. Germ. xxiv. ) 

Dancing constituted another amusement of the various In- 
dian tribes, but unlike those of civilized people,* their dances 
wore all characteristic. Thus their war dances, represented 
the actions of war; they brandished their weapons, they 

^ Though not generally understood, I apprehend the gestures and figures 
of our dances, represent subjects of love and courtship. Though now an in- 
nocent amusement, they were in their original certainly licentious and im- 
inodesl. The late Dr. E. I). Clarke, in his travels in Scandinavia, has made 
a similar observation concernina, the original features of our dances. 


wlioopej anil shouteLl^ and made gestures significant of threats 
and defiance. 

The Pyhrric dance of the ancient Greeks, was of the same 
character, for warriors in armour, danced around a fire in the 
open air, with all the mimicry of war. I presume every rude 
nation has similar dances; Crawfurd {Hist. Lid. Jlrchiji. i. 
123. 233,) describes such, among the people of Java, Cele- 
bes, Magindinao, &c. 

The war dance among the North American Indians, was 
commonly performed previous to setting out on a military 
expedition, and seems to have answered the civilized prac- 
tice of beating up for volunteers. A painted pole was some- 
times set up, around which they danced, and all those who 
enlisted for the enterprise, struck it with their tomahawks 
or war clubs. 

Other dances represented the stratagems of hunting, as far 
as could be represented in a small circle; and such dances 
were as various as the different animals they were in the 
habit of pursuing. All these dances were performed by men 
alone, and had no determinate step or figure; the accuracy of 
the representation constituted the merit of the performance, 
which in some respects might be considered as pantomime. 
An early describer of the Virginia Indians, in speaking of 
their dances, says, "he was the bravest fellow that made the 
most prodigious gestures." 

I consider the visors or masks, observed pretty generally 
throughout the continent by the first travellers, were chiefly 
used for these pantomimic dances; though they were also 
employed in their superstitious or religious practices. Her- 
rera {Hist. Jiiner. v. 7.) says, such were the customs in Peru. 

The women had their dances among themselves, and which 
represented their peculiar employments. On some occasions 
they danced in a circle, which was enclosed by a larger one 
of the men. This custom, however, seems to belong more 
especially to the South American tribes. They had gene- 
rally a musical accompaniment to their dances, cither from 
rude instruments, or from the singing of unmeaning words, 
of as much import as our tol lol de rol; and to the same in- 
tent. Some writers have affixed a very peculiar and impor- 
tant signification to these sounds; for believing the Indians of 
America, to be descendants of the ten tribes carried from Sa- 
maria by Shalmanazer, they have fancied that they thus re- 
peated the ineffable name Jehovah. This most ridiculous con- 
ceit, has a strange prevalence among the people of the United 


States, though all the analogy of sound, is to be found in hee, 
hee, ho, ho, hee, hec, ho, ho,* as I have heard them used, 
and as Hearne, {Journey to N. Ocean, 354,) and Carver, 
{Travels, 172,) both describe them. The same sounds are 
also used among the Brazilian tribes. {Purchas, iv. 1338; 
Southey^s Hist. Brazil, i. 203.) 

Their musical instruments consisted of gourds, or the skin 
of some small animal, inflated and well dried, containing 
stones, or other substances, that would make a rattling noise 
when shaken. Sometimes, bunches of deer hoofs, tied to a 
stick, were rattled in like manner. At other times, they 
used a notched stick three feet long, across whose notches, 
another stick was drawn backward and forward, con amove. 
At other times a well dried deer skin, was shaken by one or 
more persons with similar melody, and sometimes being 
stretched over a hollow log or an earthen pot, it produced 
the sound of a dull drum. 

The immensely large drums used by the Indians on the 
Orinoco, were for the purpose of alarming the country in 
times of invasion, and not for music. 

Some nations on the Orinoco, {Gumilla, Hist, de POri- 
noque, i. 303,) had trumpets four or five feet long, made of 
baked clay, with several large globular enlargements of the 
tube. The sound of these instruments, to which the Indians 
danced, says Gumilla, "fill the soul with black melancholy." 
They had also trumpets or bugles, made from the bark of 
certain trees. 

A greater perfection of musical instruments, was shewn in 
what has been called their flutes; which appear to have been 
in general use in both Americas: sometimes they made these 
flutes from a reed perforated with three or four holes, but 
more generally, at least in South America, they used the leg 
bone of a man or other animal; hence Southey punningly 
calls the instrument, the "American tibia." 

The most agreeable instrument, however, to civilized ears, 
was the syrinx or Pan's pipe, which was in use among the 
natives of the North West Coast, the Caraibs, &.c. This sim- 
ple instrument has been known in all parts of the globe. It 
was an appendage to the rural deities of Greece; and naviga- 
tors in the Pacific ocean, describe its use among the islanders 
of that sea. 

* One can scarcely forbear smiling on this subject when wc remember, that 
the Jews, who from the earliest times would not pronounce the name Jehovah, 
even in their religious services; should be now supposed to have forgotten 
every other part of their institutions, but how to profane this sacred name 


Columbus observed a musical instrument among the Hay- 
tians, [Pink. Jim. Voy. ii. 85; Herrera, i. 164,) that is so 
unlike any instrument I have ever met with, that I must use 
ihe description there given of it. It was called maio havan, 
"made of wood, hollow, strong, yet very thin, and as long as 
a man's arm: that part where they play on it, is made like 
a smith's tongs; the other end is like a club, so that it looks 
like a calabash with a long neck. It is so loud that it can be 
heard a league and a half off." 

The editor of Marchand's Voyages, (i. 144,) seems to think 
the harp, was used on the North West Coast. But as this 
idea was only derived from the examination of a painting 
made by the natives, I am inclined to suspect the observer 
was deceived, and called that a harp, which probably was in- 
tended for some mechanical tool or implement. I know not 
a single instance of a harp even of the rudest kind, having 
been observed any where in America. 

Hitherto, we have described nothing so peculiar to the 
American Indians, but what analogous customs might be pro- 
duced from the history of other rude nations elsewhere. 
But we must now take notice of a practice which originally 
belonged to the savages of America, and to them only, though 
it now constitutes an essential gratification to all the civil- 
ized nations of Europe, as well as to all the savages of Asia 
and Africa. We allude to the use of tobacco. 

Throughout America, tobacco was cultivated wherever 
the climate was sufficiently mild to permit its growth. It 
was only in the inclement country of the Esquimaux and 
adjacent northern Indians, that it was not used; for the con- 
stant hostility that prevailed among the aboriginal tribes, and 
their ignorance of traffic or barter, prohibited its use where- 
ver the natives were unable to procure this plant by their 
own labour. 

The natives on the North West Coast bordering on the 
Columbia river, appear to have used tobacco but in small 
quantities, {Leivis and Clay^h, ii. 15, &c.) though their relish 
for it either in smoke or snuff,* does not appear to be less 
than that of the tribes east of the Rocky mountains. More 
south in California, they smoked ad libitum. {Hackluyl^ iii. 
433; Venegas, i. 68.) 

The Peruvians, according to Ulloa, {Mem. Philos. ii. 59.) 
hardly make any use of tobacco, an exception which as it 
does not depend upon any defect of climate or soil, must be 

*The Aleutians are passionately fond of snuff; (Lajigsdorff's Voy 3160 which 
I presume they have learned from Ihc Rusaians. 


explained by the prevalence of their custom of drinking chi- 
cha, or chewing cocu; practices we shall presently describe. 

These are the only exceptions that we are aware of among 
the Indians of America in the use of tobacco; every where 
else it was used, even into Patagonia. {Falkner^s Descript. 
Patag. 91.) 

It is a very difficult, and certainly a very curious question 
to solve, how the use of this narcotic plant first originated. 
What could induce any one a priori to imagine, that plea- 
sure or satisfaction could be felt by inhaling smoke of any 
kind? and tobacco smoke of all other species, would seem to 
have the least attraction to recommend it to a second trial? 
I am inclined to think, that its use has originated in the prac- 
tices of the conjuring doctors of the savage tribes, who some 
how or other discovered its narcotic powers, and found it 
serviceable either in their own persons, or on the spectators 
of their various extravagancies. Habit, modified by differ- 
ent considerations, may have confirmed a practice which was 
found to soothe care, or excite stronger sensations in vacant 
and gross minds: and such being the character of the whole 
race, its charm was co-extensive. Unacquainted with the 
more pernicious stimulant of fermented liquors, smoking was 
its equivalent among the rude Indians of North America, and 
became the jdedge of their hospitality, like the salt of the 
Arab. Kven national differences were accommodated and 
treaties were ratified, by nations laying down their arms and 
smoking a national pipe, emblematical of a happy security 
and idleness; in which as if members of one common socie- 
ty they had no longer enemies to fear. 

The Indians of North America used a pipe for smoking. 
The Mexicans filled reeds and tubes with tobacco and other 
plants grateful to their taste. They also smoked cigars, which 
method of using tobacco prevailed as far as Patagonia, the 
pipe being little used in South America. All these different 
nations, however, drew the smoke into their mouths by their 
own exertions. But the Indians of the isthmus of Darien, 
{^Wafer's Descrip. 80,) from laziness, or from some good but 
hitherto unassigned reason, had the smoke blown into their 
mouths by a servant, who having made a very large cigar, 
put the lighted end into his own mouth, and blew the smoke 
through into the opened mouth of the expecting guest. 

Chewing and snuffing tobacco, can scarcely be said to have 
been practiced in America north of Mexico: in that empire 
it was partially used in these forms. But in the West India 
islands, and generally in South America, north of the river 
Amazon, and east of the AndeS; snuff compounded of tobacco 


and other narcotic plants, fully disputed the sovereignty of 
the pipe or cigar. The practice of chewing tobacco, no where 
prevailed to any remarkable degree. 

The natives of the West India islands, snufied tobacco and 
other narcotics up the nose, through a reed twelve or four- 
teen inches in length. Father Romans, who accompanied 
Columbus, says, [Pink. Jim. Voy. ii. S3, &c.) the plant they 
used was called cohoha, and that it put them beside them- 
selves, as if they had been drunk. 

Condamine {Pink. Jim. Voy. iv. 226,) tell us, that the 
Omaguas on the upper waters of the river Amazon, snuff up 
a narcotic powder which they call there curupa, by means 
of a forked hollow stick shaped like the letter Y; the forked 
end being inserted into the nostrils. He says, that the in- 
toxication that follows this practice, lasts twenty-four hours. 
Humboldt, (Pers. Nar. v. 662,) and Southey, {Hist. Brazil, 
iii. 723,) also describe the use of this intoxicating snuff in 
various parts of Brazil, Paraguay, &c. 

Oviedo, (Purc/ias' Pilgrims, v. 957,) says, that the In- 
dians of Haiti, inhaled the smoke of burning tobacco up the 
nose by the forked reed just described. 

Thus far as respects the general use of tobacco; the parti- 
cular use of the calumet, belongs to the Section concerning 
War and Peace. 

On the North West Coast of America, where smoking was 
too great a luxury to be enjoyed except on important occa- 
sions, {Lewis and Clark, ii. 15,) some tribes made use of a 
stimulus approaching very near to the betel chewing of the 
East Indies. It is thus described by Capt. Dixon. ( Voy. 
175.) "At Mulgraves sound, the natives are particularly 
fond of chewing a plant which appears to be a species of to- 
bacco. But not content, however, with chewing it in its 
simple state, they generally mix lime along with it, and some- 
times the inner bark of the pine tree, together with a resi- 
nous substance extracted from it." 

I consider Dixon to have mistaken this plant for tobacco; 
for Marchand, {Voy, i. 341,) who describes the same prac- 
tice, says the natives "prefer tobacco when they can get it. " 

The Peruvians chewed the leaves of a plant which they 
called cuca or coca, together with chalk or lime. Ulloa 
{Voy. i. 345,) says this plant is exactly the same "with the 
betel of the East Indies; the plant, the leaf, the manner of 
using it being the same."* 

* 1 have seen somewhere, though I cannot icmembcr in what place, that 
the coca is the Erythroxylon Peruvianum; but this I beJieve, is a tree. The 
betel of the E. Indies is a species of piper, which is a vine. 


Columbus observed tbe Indians of Veragua, {Pink. %^m. 
Voy. ii. 137,)tocbe\van herb along with some kind of powder, 
which he does not describe. Humboldt [Pers. Nar. iii. 225,) 
considers it to have been lime, which is still used by the In- 
dians at the mouth of the Rio de la Hacha, for the purpose 
of stimulating the salivary glands. Purchas also [Pilgrims, 
V. 896,) says, the Indians of Cumana chew the leaves of a 
tree called gay^* mixed with lime made from burnt shells. 

The Jumas and other Brazilian tribes, {Southey^s Hist. 
Brazil, iii. 705,) parch and pulverize the leaves of a plant 
called ipadii, which they stuff into their mouths and swal- 
low gradually. As it is swallowed they put in more, so as to 
keep the mouth always full. They say it takes away both 
the necessity and desire of sleep, and keeps them in a delight- 
ful state of indolent tranquillity. 

The Indians north of Mexico, seem to have been without 
inebriating drinks of any kind. The beverage prepared by 
the Creeks, Chocktaws, &c. from the cassine, (Prinos Gla- 
ber,) and called by Adair and others, the ^'beloved drink,'* 
was not intoxicating. 

In Long's Exped. Rocky mountains, ii. 194, we are in- 
formed, that among the Otoes (west of the Mississippi,) an un- 
known species of bean or seed, called the ''intoxicating bean," 
is used by a private association of Indian sensualists of that 
nation. From the vague mention there made, I apprehend 
this bean to possess highly narcotic powers, and that an 
aqueous tincture of it is administered, rather than a "bever- 
age," for it is said a horse has been sometimes given for 
eight or ten beans. 

The Mexicans prepared an intoxicating drink from the 
maguey, (Agave Americana) whose use however was prohi- 
bited to any persons, but those who were grandfathers or 
grandmothers, under pain of death. 

The Indians of the Isthmus of Darien, {Wafer, 123,) the 
Peruvians, Caraibs, and Tupinambas of Brazil, &c. prepared 
inebriating drinks, from maize, mandioc, and other vegetable 
substances, according to the detestable process of brewing 
kava in the South Sea islands. A number of persons sat 
down together and chewed the above mentioned substances, 
until sufficiently bruised by the teeth, when they spit their 
mouthfuls into a large vessel prepared for this purpose. 
When a sufficient quantity was obtained, water was poured 
on the mass, and the mixture left to ferment. It was then 
drank to intoxication. 

* Is not this the matte or herb of Paraguay? which the Indians there call 
£(10. (Charlevoix, Hist. Parag. i. 16.) 


From the cashew apple, the Brazilians also prepared a bet- 
ter and more cleanly drink, by simply expressing its juice. 
Others made a good beverage from honey.* 

Orellana, on his voyage down the river Amazons, [Sou- 
they^s Hist. Brazil, i. 93,) relates, that he saw "beer made 
from oats," in a village whence the natives had been driven 
by his followers. I presume it was nothing else than chica. 

The matte, or herb of Paraguay, (Gallium mollugo) now 
so much used by the Spaniards of South America, was de- 
rived by them from the Indians of Paraguay, who call it caa. 
The leaves are infused in hot water, and sucked through a 
tube. It has something of the flavour of tea, and is stimu- 
lant, narcotic and diuretic; inducing intoxication if drank to 
excess. {Charlevoix, Hist. Parag. i. 15, 17; Southey^s 
Hist. Braz. ii. 356.) 

Among the customs just described, are two, which offer 
apparently striking analogies, to certain habits of the East 
Indians and islanders of the Pacific ocean; these we shall se- 
parately examine, and first of the chewing of leaves, &c. 
mixed with lime. 

The chewing of the areca nut, the betel leaf, and lime to- 
gether, is a practice which has prevailed at one time or other 
in Hindostan, China, and the great islands of the Indian 
ocean; extending down to New Holland, and the islands in 
that neighborhood. It is a curious circumstance, however, 
that this custom does not appear to have been observed among 
the natives of New Zealand, the Sandwich, the Friendly, or 
Society islands; or other islands in the Pacific ocean; who 
in other respects, offer many analogies to the Indian island- 

One could hardly imagine that the practice of putting lime 
into the mouth, could have two distinct origins; yet the vast 
distance between the American Indians, and those Asiatic 
tribes that indulge in this habit, precludes the possibility of 
any communication between them since the earliest periods 
of time; which would ascribe apparently, too great an anti- 
quity to so preposterous a custom. 

* As the honey bee has been denied to have existed in America previous 
to the discovery by Europeans, I beg leave to mention tlius incidentally in a 
note, that Clavigero {Hist. Mex. i. 90,) says, there are six different kinds of 
bees in Mexico; one of which "is the same with the common bee of Europe, 
in size, shape, colour, disposition, manners, and qualities of its honey and 

Garcillazo de la Vega (Roy. Coinment. 337,) relates, "there are wild bees in 
Peru, that make hives in hollow trees, and clefts of rocks; and that their ho- 
ney is excellent, white, clear, and very sweet." 


With respect to the nauseous preparation of those intoxi- 
cating drinks used by the Peruvians, and other nations of 
South America, and generally known by the name of chicha, 
or acua, according to the language of Peru, we must observe, 
that the resemblance, however striking at first sight to the pre- 
paration of kava among the South Sea islanders, is perhaps 
after all very remote, and simply belongs to the great imper- 
fection of their mechanical arts, and disregard to those refine- 
ments of cleanliness, which so especially characterizes civil- 
ized life. 

Almost all rude nations are remarkable for their love of 
intoxicating drinks,* in which they indulge to an excess al- 
most amounting to madness. With the frequent gratification 
of this propensity, they like all other drunkards, at last be- 
come regardless of any considerations of health or life; and 
therefore we can little expect such gross beings, to fregard 
decency or cleanliness. From the earliest ages of the world, 
it has been known that grain bruised or mashed when infused 
in water, would make in a short time an intoxicating drink. 
This manufacture with people living in any tolerable state of 
comfort, would be accomplished by the means of a pestle and 
mortar; but a wandering and barbarous people, do not even 
possess this simple instrument, and the most natural method 
of preparing their grain for this purpose, would be to chew 
it in the mouth. This process however disgusting to civil- 
ized persons, is little regarded among savages. The Esqui- 
maux women chew their husband's gloves and boots, to ren- 
der them soft and pliable: {Lyon's Journal, 231,) and the 
natives of the North West Coast, {Marchand's Voy. i. 175,) 
ofl'er to their particular friends, the mouthful they have 
chewed, "in order that they may have no other trouble than 
that of swallowing; it." 

Southey {Hist. Braz. i. 235,) says, that the Tupinambas 
gave their drink the name of caou-in or kaawy; which seems 
to be almost identical with the Otaheitan word kava, from 
which he seems inclined to derive it. But is it not more na- 
tural to find this word either in caa, the Paraguay name for 

* Baron Humboldt (Pejs. J^ar.y. 151,) mentions the strange anomaly 
among the American Indians, of some tribes on the Orinoco, who dislike 
brandy. But this is a very rare exception to the universal fact, that all rude 
nations are characterized for delight in intoxication. Tacitus described the 
excess of this vice among the ancient Germans and its moral consequences, 
in language that has been deplorably realized in the history of the North 
American Indians. "If you indulge their love of liquor to the excess which 
they require, you need not employ the terror of arms; their own vices will 
t^ubdue them," {J\1or. Germ, xxiii.) 


their tea drink, which is perhaps a generic term, or in acua 
one of the Peruvian terms, for an infusion similarly prepared? 
Or is it one of those original words that belong to the human 
race, and signifies in various languages an intoxicating drink? 
The word chicha of the Peruvians, is I am inclined to think 
of this kind, as may be seen in the annexed note.* 

The last gratification of the barbarous Indians that we shall 
enumerate, will be the vapour or sweating bath, which pre- 
vailed among them throughout North America as far as the 
southern boundaries of Mexico. It consisted in erecting a 
small hut or apartment, into which hot stones were brought; 
water being thrown upon these, was converted into steam, 
occasioning a profuse perspiration in those persons shut up 
in the confined space. Though this bath was often used as a 
remedy for various disorders, it was not unfrequently resort- 
ed to as a gratification, after the exposures of hunting, fishing, 
&c. during inclement seasons. 

The Laplanders, Russians, &c. use the vapour bath in a 
similar manner. 

It does not appear to have been employed in South Ame- 
rica, unless occasionally as a remedy for rheumatism, &c. The 
heat of the climate, sufficiently explains the reason of this 

Of Marriages, ^-c. of the Barbarous Indians. 

The parties having agreed to become man and wife, their 
union is declared by themselves in some uninteresting cere- 
monies, which took place in the presence of friends and re- 
latives, and which terminated by the whole company par- 
taking of a feast, attended with rude rejoicings. The so- 
lemnization of marriage among the ruder Indians, can hard- 
ly be said to deserve notice; for not only did the unmarried 
women live unchastely, but this licentiousness of their ha- 
bits, did not in the least degree affect their character. By 
marriage, however, the husband acquired an authority over 
the wife, whereby he punished her adultery, when commit- 

* This curious etymological inference I have derived from Dr. Adam 
Clark's notes upon Luke, 1st chap. v. 15; and Levit. x. chap. v. 9th. "The 
Greek word 2ix£pa intoxicating drink, comes from the Hebrew '^'^t^* s/'^«r, 
which is derived from "l^JtJ^ shaker to inebriate. Any inebriating drink, says 
St. Jerome, (Epist. ad Nepot.) is called sifcera, whether made of apples, corn, 
honey, dates, or other fruits. One of the four prohibited liquors among the 
East India Musslemans, is called sikkir, and is made by steeping fresh dates 
in water, till they take effect in sweetening it." 


ted without his permission, either by biting off her nose,"' 
cutting off her hair, or even putting her to death. Yet 
there was nothing more common, than a husband lending his 
wife to a friend or guest. 

No dowry was paid to the father of the girl, from the 
evident reason, that the difficulty of supporting his family 
was thus diminished. But in some instances, presents 
were made, probably to procure good will; and not un- 
frequently, the son-in-law remained with his wife's parents 
for some months, or a year, and thus his personal service 
was employed for the good of the family. 

Concubinage and polygamy, prevailed every v,rhere through- 
out the continent, whenever any one was pleased to claim 
the indulgence. The difficulty of procuring subsistence, 
however, generally limited them to one wife; who might be 
divorced at any time, or who might divorce herself, whene- 
ver she saw fit. 

I believe, the Indians universally recognized certain de- 
grees of consanguinity, within which marriage was consid- 
ered unlawful. The charge of incest among them, was to 
cover the infamy of European aggressions. There were 
no prejudices against the marriage of widows, but when 
their husbands had been killed in war, they would some- 
times wait until his death was revenged, before entering a 
second time into the bonds of matrimony. 

The Calchaquis, a tribe in the interior of Brazil, {South- 
ei/'s Hist. Brazil, iii. 669,) are said to have had among 
them the custom of marrying their brother's widows, to 
raise up seed for the dead: and some of the North Ameri- 
can tribes, are reported to have followed the same practice. 
{Charlevoix, Canada, 196.) It is not unlikely, that the 
brother takes under his care and protection, and perhaps 
marries, the distressed widow of a deceased brother, because 
similar practices prevail among various nations.! But that 
it was done with any view of raising up seed for the de- 
ceased, as was ordained by the Jewish law, is altogether an 

* Cutting or biting off the nose, seems to have been among almost every 
nation of the world, the punishment for adultery. Diod. Sic. lib. i. chap. 
4, says, it was the punishment inflicted by the ancient Egyptians. "For it 
was looked upon very fit, that the adulteress that tricked up herself to allure 
men to wantonness, should be punished in that part where her charms chiefly 

f The people of Java, the Hindoos, (Crawfurd''s Ind. .Brchip. iii. 139,) and 
the natives of the Society Indians, (Forster''s Ohsermlions, Voyage Round the 
World, 601,) recognize such marriages. 


assumption of tliose persons, who have advocated the origin 
of the Indians from that people.* 

It was a pretty universal custom among the Indian women 
of North America, to retire to the woods, or otherwise se- 'i 
elude themselves during their catamenial evacuation. This 
was especially observed among the females of the Choctaws, 
Chippeways, Appalaches, and some of the New England 
tribes. Carver (Travels, 153,) says, there is a house in the 
Sioux towns, provided for this purpose. This practice which 
also has been brought forward to prove the Jewish descent 
of the Indians, prevails among the Laplanders, (Leems, in 
Pink. Voy. ii. 377,) the natives of the Sandwich islands, 
&c.t [CampbeWs Voy. round the Globe, 190,) who cer- 
tainly never derived it from the Jews. The American In- 
dians imagined, that to be touched, or to have their weapons 
touched by women in that condition brought bad luck either 
in hunting or in war. 

Among the Caraibs, the Tupinambas, and other Brazilian 
tribes, a most ridiculous custom prevailed on the birth of a 
child. When a woman was delivered, the husband went to 
bed, and was nursed with great care until the navel string 
had dried away. In the mean time, the mother got up and 
attended to the family concerns. I am unacquainted with 
any North American tribe, allowing this custom, except the 
people of California. {Venegas^ Hist. California,!. 82.) 

Senseless as this practice seems, it has nevertheless been 
established among various nations of the eastern continent. 
The ancient Cantabrians, {Laborde^s Spain, ii. 383,) the 
people of Congo, {Malte-Brun, Geog. book, 69,) some of 
the Tartars visited by Marco Polo, [Micali Italie, iv. 160,) 
and the ancient Corsicans, acted the same ridiculous farce. 
Lafitau [Southey^s Hist. Brazil, ii. 238,) says, that the 
custom still existed in his time in the French provinces near 
Spain; and was there called /aire couvade. 

Some of the South American females if they bear twins, 
put one of them to death through a perverse sense of shame; 
for they say, it is only beasts, such as rats, and opossums, 

* Was the custom even established among the Indians, which I altogether 
disbelieve, it proves nothing in favour of Jewish descent; for the institution 
of raising seed for a deceased brother, was established long before the time 
of the promulgation of the Jewish law. See history of Tamar and Judah's 
children, Genesis, chap, xxxviii. vers. 8, 9. 

t Some of the rude mountaineers of Hindostan, consider their women im- 
pure dui-ing their catamenial evacuation; and if one in this state should 
touch a man, he is considered defiled. [JisiaU Researches, iv. 79-) 


that bring forth more than one at a birth.* [Humboldt^ s 
Pers. Nar. v. 29.) 

A deformed child is unhesitatingly killed among many of 
the South American tribes. [Humboldt, as above.) The 
North Americans, 1 believe, were more humane. I have 
seen a very deformed Sac chief, who moved about in a 
bowl, from the uselessness of his lower limbs. 

Azara, ii. 94, relates, a curious circumstance of the Guana of Paraguay, destroying their female infants so ge- 
nerally, as to make a great disproportion of numbers be- 
tween the two sexes. This they do to make their own sex 
of greater consequence; and the fact is, this nation of savages 
is more gentle, courteous, and better dressed, than any 
others of the countr}'. 

A detestable custom prevailed in South America among 
the Guaycurus, Mbayas, and Abipones of Brazil, of raising 
only a single child. The women during pregnancy, used 
various means to procure abortion, until they supposed 
themselves pregnant for the last time. From this circum- 
stance they were frequently left without any issue. [Jizara^ 
ii. 115, 147, 156.) 

This custom was probably but of recent institution, and 
no doubt was circumscribed, but it has nevertheless entirely 
destroyed the numerous tribe of the Guayacurus. I have 
met with nothing analogous among the northern Indians. 
But it would seem there can be no custom or superstition so 
cruel, barbarous, or stupid, among one people, but it has 
been also practiced elsewhere in the world. Sir William 
Jones, (Jlsiat. Res. iv. 338,) describes the practice of de- 
stroying female infants, to exist among a race of Hindus, 
in the district of Benares. The reason they assign for this 
abominable custom, was the difficulty to procure suitable 
matches for their daughters when grown up. 

According to Ward's View of the Hindoos, {Vol. iii. 339,) 
this peculiar species of infanticide, prevails much more ex- 
tensively among that people than was known to Sir Wil- 
liam Jones. 

In China, also, {Morrisori' s Chinese Diet. i. 602,) the prac- 
tice of drowning female infants is so common, that books 
have been written expressly against that crime. 

*Gumilla, {Hki. de VOrinoco, i. 299,) however, adds to this, that the hus- 
bands of these women also have a theory, that twins cannot be begotten by 
one man; and they therefore regard such births as proofs of adultery, for 
which they chastise and otherwise punish their wives. 


The Indians of America are commonly charged with 
treating their wives with great brutality: Dr. Robertson 
says, they make them "a kind of beast of burthen, destined 
to every office of labour and fatigue. '^ But such assertions 
are very incorrectly made; for the squaw bears no more than 
a fair proportion of the necessary domestic toil. The hus- 
band fishes, hunts, and fights; the wife chiefly makes the 
hut, the implements of huswifery, and cultivates the ground. 
Is the husband making a beast of burthen of her by this' If 
so let us imagine him to stay at home, and do the work of 
the squaw, while she is out in the woods and fields, exposed 
to all the inclemencies of weather, hunting and fishing not 
for pastime, as persons are apt to consider it, but under the 
apprehension or very sting of hunger. Then, indeed, their 
condition would be hard; but as it is at present, it would be 
impossible for the man to support the family by hunting or 
fishing, and at the same time to do that work, which his 
wife indeed could do as well as himself. I question much, if 
the lower class of Europeans who work for daily wages, 
treat their wives in a manner diflerent from that of the Indians: 
The Germans and Hollanders at least, do not; nor is it un- 
reasonable that the women should be helpmates, and assis- 
tants to their husbands, and bear a part of the labour and 
trouble of supporting a family, in a manner proportionate to 
their ability.* 

Heckewelder states, that the women say, their field la- 
bours last about six weeks, while that of the men continues 
throughout the year. After the harvest is made, the women 
have little else to do, than gather wood, and prepare the 
daily food; and the proof that their employments are not 
unreasonably severe, is, that women generally live longer 
than the men. 

It is also a great mistake to suppose the American Indians 
peculiar in this treatment of their wives. All rude nations 
are necessarily obliged to resort to the same division of la- 
bour. Thus though the ancient Germans, were remarkable 
for their respect of the female sex, yet Tacitus observes, 
(Mor. Germ, xv.) "they leave the management of their 

* We may venture in a note, to take notice of the charge frequently made 
against the Indians, that they think tlieir v/omen inferior to themselves: 
Are they so very singular in this respect? However ungracious the doctrine 
may sound in the ears of our fair unmarried country-women, they too often 
experience its truth in matrimony; as remarked by Pope to Miss Blount. 
Whole years neglected, for some months adored: 
The fawning servant turns a haughty lord. 


houses and lands to the women, the old men, and infirm part 
of the family/'* 

Strabo remarks, {Geog. lib. iii.) that the ancient inhabitants 
of Spain, Liguria, &c. allotted husbandry, and other labo- 
rious work to their women. 

In Circasia, Bulgaria, at Sierra Leone, and among the 
Hottentots, &c. the women cultivate the ground. (Forster's 
Observations, Voyage round the Globe, 237.) 

Of the Religion of the Barbarous American Indians. 

It is almost an impossible task to exhibit with any clear- 
ness of description, the gross ideas of the American Indians 
concerning the existence and nature of God, or of their own 
moral obligations. 

They speak in a vague manner of a good spirit who rules 
over the affairs of the world, who is beneficent and kind in 
all his operations, but whom they little worship or regard. 
The chief end of their religious homage, is to propitiate the 
evil spirit, who if neglected, rouses up the storm, blasts 
their crops, destroys their game, or visits them with pesti- 
lence and death. Subordinate to these two great principles, 
are numerous other spirits, inferior in power, and more cir- 
cumscribed in their operations, who are perpetually inter- 
fering with human affairs. Under such impressions they are 
superstitious according to Heckewelder, {Histor. and Lit. 
Trans. 232,) to an "incredible degree." 

They believe in witchcraft, dreams, and charms; and 
every uncommon incident in life, is ascribed to some super- 
natural cause. But with all this superstition, they do not 
appear to have any thing like a regular, or even distinct 
apprehension of a religious system. The outlines of the 
scheme they acknowledge, is emphatically the religion of 
nature; for they perceive something good, and something 
evil in the world; which they can only comprehend to be 
caused, b}' the alternate ascendancy of good or evil spirits, 
whose power must therefore be nearly equal, as neither 
alone governs the universe. If they could be supposed to 
exercise ingenuity in their reasonings, they would probably 
refine their vague notions, into the Ormuz and Ahriman sys- 
tem of ancient Persia. Malte-Brun informs us, this has been 
done by certain negroes of Africa. 

No idea is more unfounded, than that the Indians wor- 

*1 do not remember from what writer Strabo is here quoted; I have never 
seen his geography. 


■shipped but one God. This notion has been derived from 
the advocates of the Jewish descent of this race, who have 
perverted every fact that came to their hands, as far as I 
have been able to examine this matter. 

The Six nations, according to Charlevoix, [Canada, 250,) 
"'besides the Great Spirit and the other Gods, which are 
confounded with him, have an infinite number of Genii, or 
subaltern spirits, good and evil, which have their particular 

The Virginians, {History by a Native, 168, 170,) believ- 
ed, there were tutelary deities to every town, &c. 

The Sioux, (Carver's Travels, 250,) in like manner, be- 
lieve in numerous spirits, who preside over lakes, rivers, 
mountains, &c. , and who are worshipped according to the very 
slight ritual of the Indians: and such in fact, was the case 
throughout the continent, as may be seen in the narration of 
every intelligent traveller.* 

The sense of moral obligation, or of conscientious re- 
straint, among the Indians is both weak and perverted, but 
nevertheless their sayings and actions constantly testify 
that they are under the influence of moral considerations. 
Mackenzie {Voy. 136,) relates, that an Indian seen by him, 
attributed a paralytic affection of the limbs with which he 
was afflicted, to a judgm.ent upon his "cruelty," in having 
burned alive a wolf and her whelps in an old beaver lodge. 
The reader who is aware of the savage practices of Indian 
warfare, cannot but wonder at this power of conscience 
among barbarians, whom we are apt to consider almost des- 
titute of the moral sense. It, however, exemplifies the 
justness of St. Paul's observation concerning the Pagans; 
{Romans, chap. ii. v. 15,) that their consciences bear wit- 
ness, and their thoughts continually accuse, or else excuse 
one another. 

However, not to multiply facts and incident!^ of a similar 
nature, we consider the general proposition sufficiently es- 
tablished in their belief of a future state, and of its rewards 
or punishments, corresponding to their actions in the pre- 
sent life. This, necessarily implies a distinction, however 
gross it may be, between right and wrong, and upon which 
conscience exerts her mighty influence. 

* Roger Williams, (A'ejy to Indian Language, 109,) remarks, that the Narra- 
gansets, "although they deny not that the Englishmen's God made English- 
men, and the heavens and the earth there; yet say, their Gods made them 
and the heavens, and the earth where they dwell." He proceeds in the next 
page to enumerate thirty-seven Gods, whose names had been communicated 
to him. 


When Champlain, in A. D. 1603, {Purchas, v. 826,) asked 
the Canadian Indians, what ceremonies they used in praying 
to their God, they replied, "they used none, but that every 
one prayed in his heart as he would " 

It cannot be perceived, says Smith, [Purchas, v. 839, 
841,) "that the Virginia Indians have any set holy daj'S, 
only in some distress or want, fear of enemies, times of 
triumph, and of gathering their fruits, the whole country, 
men, women and children, assemble to their solemnities. 
The manner of their devotion is sometimes to make a great 
fire, all singing and dancing about the same, with rattles and 
shoutings, four or five hours. Sometimes they seat a man 
in the midst, and dance and sing about him, he all the while 
clapping his hands, as if to enable them to keep time; after 
this they go to their feasts." 

Roger Williams, (A'ey, &c. Ill,) quaintly says, that in the 
invocation of their Gods, the Narraganset priests and peo- 
ple, "joyne interchangeably in a laborious bodily service 
unto sweating, especially of the priest, who spends himself 
in strange antic gestures, and actions even into fainting." 

The sacrifices and religious offerings of the North Ame- 
rican Indians, were few and simple, and barely frequent 
enough, to enable us to recognize this most ancient institu- 
tion of divine worship. It consisted sometimes, in tying 
the legs of an animal together, and throwing it alive, into 
the river or lake they were navigating. [Henry^s Travels, 
108, 127, 178, &c.) At other times, they killed an animal 
in honour of some demon, and eat its flesh. An essential 
part of the ceremony among some northern tribes, seems to 
have been, that every portion of the animal should be 
eaten.* Some tribes, it is said, preserved the bones whole 
and unbroken, which they afterwards burnt or buried in the 
ground. In like manner, however, (//e/irj/'^ Travels, 134,) 
they regarded the corn-cobs, remaining after such feasts, 
which were not to be broken, and were required to be buried 
in the ground, &c. 

At other times, something of more or less value to the 
owner, was consecrated to the spirits of the invisible world, 
by being deposited in particular places, or thrown into a 

* This practice has also confirmed the notion that the Indians kept the 
Jewish passover. It was however, no uncommon practice among many pagan 
nations. Thus when the Greelis, (Potter's ^ntiq. i- 233,) "sacrificed to Ves- 
ta, it was usual to eat the entire animal. To send any portion abroad was 
considered a crime. Hence the pi-overb Efia Srusiv, and among the Ro- 
mans, lari sacrifare, was applied to gluttons who eat up all that is set before 


river, chasm, or torrent. In some few instances, whilst 
eating, they threw portions of their food into the fire, from 
superstitious notions. 

In Long's Expedition to the Rocky mountains, i. 357, it is 
said, a human sacrifice was annually offered by the Pawnee 
Loups, for the success of their harvest. As the history of 
this practice was unknown to the relators, and from its 
being certainly an insulated custom among the North Ame- 
rican Indians, I rather deem it a capricious institution, 
which even the barbarism of their condition, did not permit 
beyond a few repetitions. 

Strictly speaking, there were no priests among the barba- 
rous American tribes: Their function, as well as that of the 
physician, were exercised by persons, whom we consider 
better entitled to the appellation of conjurers, as their le- 
gerdemain practices shew their proficiency in this character, 
while their claim to the two other professions was both im- 
posture and impudence. Yet it is very natural that these 
three distinct professions, should be exercised among rude 
nations by one individual; for the Indians consider all dis- 
ease and mischance to proceed from witchcraft and super- 
natural causes, and not from accident or imprudence. Hence 
with them, as among the negroes of Africa, no one ever dies 
a natural death. To counteract the malice of gods or de- 
mons, the conjurers are called in upon all such occasions, 
and by natural inference, if any person has power enough to 
contend with such invisible agents, he can control the 
weather and seasons, bring good luck in hunting and fishing, 
protect from the casualties of war, cure diseases, recover 
lost goods, or do any thing in short, that requires supernatu- 
ral means and intelligence.* 

To accomplish their purposes, and maintain their ere* 
dit, for there was no system common to them all but to 
deceive; each conjurer adopts those means, that his own sa- 
gacity and adroitness leads him to consider the most impos- 
ing,and which are frequently performed with ventriloquial 
powers, and slight of hand dexterity, that is not surpassed 
in India or China. Of this we shall recite a few instances, 
as exhibiting the general character of their feats. 

In their visits to the sick, the general practice was to put 

* But though the conjurers thus derived wealth and consequence from the 
prevalence of such notions, yeton the other hand they were exposed to great 
danger. For if a superstitious Indian believed he was bewitched by the arts 
of a conjurer, or was so informed by some other envious conjurer, he did not 
hesitate to put him to death in revenge for the supposed injury. (Stevenson's 
Trav. So^^th. America, I 61. Dobrizhoffer, Hist. Abipones, ii. 224, 227, &c.) 


a bone, a stone, a piece of flesh, &c. into their mouths, in 
such a manner as to be unobserved by any one, and then af- 
ter pulling and stretching the patient's limbs, turning him 
over, blowing on him, ai^d sucking different parts of his 
body, they at last after a long repetition of the above ceremo- 
nies, produce as the cause of the patient's illness, whatever 
substance they had previously concealed in their mouths. 
Columbus observed this practice in Hayti, at the time of the 
discovery. {Pink. Jim. Voy. ii. 85.) Henry {Travels, 
121,) describes it among the Chippeways. Charlevoix, 
{Hist. Paraguay, i. 205,) and Azara, {Voyages, ii. 140,) 
relate the same things among the Guaranis of Brazil. 

At other times, their exhibitions were ventriloquial, and 
much more imposing. The following account given by Capt. 
Lyon, {Private Journal, 260,) of the performance of an 
Esquimaux conjuror, is too complete and interesting to be 

^'All light being excluded, the sorcerer began chanting with 
great vehemence. He then, as far as I could perceive, began 
turning himself rapidly round, and in a loud powerful voice 
vociferated for Tornga, (the name of his familiar spirit) with 
great impatience, at the same time blowing and snorting like a 
walrus. His noise, impatience, and agitation, increased every 
moment, and he at length seated himself on the deck, vary- 
ing his tones, and making a rustling vvith his clothes. Sud- 
denly, the voice seemed smothered, and was so managed as 
to sound as if retreating beneath the deck, each moment be- 
coming more distant, and ultimately giving the idea of being 
many feet below the cabin, when it ceased entirely. His 
wife now informed me, that the conjurer had dived under 
the ship, and that he would send up Tornga. Accordingly 
in about half a minute, a distant blowing was heard, very 
slowly approaching, and a voice, which differed from thai we 
at first had heard, was at times mingled with the blowing, un- 
til at length both sounds became distinct, and the old woman 
told me, Tornga was come to answer my questions. I ac- 
cordingly asked several questions of the sagacious spirit, to 
each of which I received an answer by two loud slaps on the 
deck, which I was given to understand were favourable. A 
very hollow, yet powerfuJ voice, certainly much different 
from that of the conjurer's, now chanted for some time, and 
a strange jumble of hisses, groans, shouts, and gabblings like 
a turkey, succeeded in rapid order; when the spirit asked 
permission to retire. The voice then gradually sank from 
our hearing as at first, and a very indistinct hissing succeed- 


ed, (in its advance it sounded like the tone produced by the 
wind on the base chord of an Eolian harp,) this was soon 
changed to a rapid hiss like that of a rocket, and the conju- 
ror with a yell announced his return." 

Henry {Travels^ 168,) describes nearly the same perform- 
ances among the Chippeways, and Falkner [Description of 
Patagonia,) among the Indians of the Straits of Magellan. 

From these accounts, we may understand the practices of 
the wizzards* mentioned in the scripture; whom the prophet 
Isaiah {chap, vii 19th, xxix. 4th,) says, "peep and mutter, 
whose speech seemed to rise out of the ground, and to whis- 
per out of the dust." 

In general, the profession of conjurer pertained to the 
men, but among some of the South American nations, the 
Abipones of Brazil, for mstance, {Southey''s Hist. Braz. iii. 
400, &c.) there were female conjurers, who were more nume- 
rous, and of greater estimation than the men. 

Though almost every thing of remarkable character or ap- 
pearance, received a religious or rather superstitious homage 
from the American Indians, yet, on the whole, there were few 
idolatrous representations among them, and when they un- 
dertook to make figures of their deities, they were sufficiently 
rude and frightful. Purchas, {Pilgrims, iv. 1701,) gives the 
following description of an idol worshipped in Virginia. "The 
chief god of the Virginians is the devil, him they call Oke, and 
serve him more of fear than love. In their temples, they have 
his image evi!-favouredly carved, and then painted and adorned 
with copper chains and beads, and covered with a skin in 
such a manner as the deformity may well suit with such a 

Similar figures are described in various other parts of 
North America. 

The Creeks have at one of their war towns, a carved sta- 
tue of wood, which they undoubtedly worshipped or rever- 
enced; though Adair, {American Indians, 22,) denies that 
they considered it as a deity, but that it was designed to per- 
petuate the memory of some hero. I think it very possible, 

* The Wizzards of the scriptures, or those with familiar spirits, are called 
by thelxx. EyyaffTpi^iv^og^beUy speakers, or ventriloquists. Our English trans- 
lators of the Bible, Levit chap, xx 27 v. have mistaken the proper sense of 
the Hebrew words. Instead of the version, "a man or a woman thai hath a 
familiar spirit shall be surely put to death," it should be, "a man or a wo- 
man, if there shall have been with them a wizzard;" (ventriloquist) i. e. if 
they shall have consulted one, shall be put to death. The law was levelled 
against those who resorted to such superstitious and infidel practices; from 
very evident reason, for God himself was their governor and king. See. 
Shuckford's Connexions, book 9th, on this subject at length. 


that this statue originally belonged to some of the demi-civil- 
ized people of Florida, for such figures were observed by 
Soto, and in after times by Du Pratz, among those nations. 

Columbus, {Pink Jim. Voy. ii. 84,) describes the Hai- 
tiens as having some stone idols called by them cemies, which 
were about a foot long. He also describes others, so placed 
that the caciques could hide behind them, and delude their 
simple subjects, by causing their voices to proceed apparent- 
ly from the idol. 

In the island of Barbadoes, {Edward's W. Indies, i. 51,) 
some fragments of Indian idols made of clay have been found. 
The head alone, of one of these weighed sixty pounds. 

In South America, the Indians appear to have had less of 
religion, or at least fewer of the externals of superstition, than 
those of the north; and hence it is a common observation of 
travellers, that they had no religion at all. In South Ame- 
rica from the La Plata to the Orinoco, says Southey, {Hist. 
Brazil, i. 204,) the savages had generally no other idols 
than gourds or calabashes, ornamented with feathers, &c. 
and containing a few stones, which rattled when shaken. 
These idols were called Maraca, and were considered capa- 
ble of fortelling future events. 

Lery, {Purchas, iv. 1339,) describes the Maraca, but de- 
nies positively, that they were worshipped as idols. I pre- 
sume, therefore, they are to be regarded chiefly as talismans, 
or as magical instruments. 

In some instances, however, wooden idols were observed 
in parts of Brazil and Paraguay. {Southey^s Hist. Braz. i. 
136, 598, 620.) The same author also reports, that the 
bones of the conjurers, were preserved after death as objects 
of worship. {Hist. Brazil, ii, 371.) 

Humboldt {Pers. Nar. v. 273) says, that the botuto, a 
kind of earthen trumpet, is held sacred among the tribes on 
the Oronoco. It has its peculiar mysteries, to which per- 
sons are initiated by some painful ordeals. This trumpet, 
when sounded under fruit trees, has the effect of making 
them produce largely; at least the priests or conjurers say 
so, and are paid for thus using it. 

Garcilazo de la Vega {Roy. Comynent, 119,) tells us, that 
some of the Indians inhabiting the Andes adjacent to Peru, 
worshipped the Jaguar and large serpents, as their gods, I 
question the correctness of this observation; but if true, I 
consider it a singular and insulated circumstance. 

From Skinner {Present state of Perv, 273, &c.) we learn 
that the Indians of Manoa, &c. have practices in their reli- 


gious system similar to those of the northern tribes, as well 
as an analogous faith. They admit of a good and evil prin- 
ciple, but pay them little homage except in times of dan- 
ger or calamity. They also have conjurers among them, who 
practice all the knaveries of the craft. 

The Schamans of Siberian Tartary, the conjurers of Lap- 
land, and the Obi men of Africa, are exactly like the Ame- 
rican conjurers, exhibiting similar practices, which obvi- 
ously arise from their equal state of rudeness and barba- 
rity; and which, though modified b}'^ climate and manner of 
living, have the same effects. Thus, the conjurers of Ame- 
rica, possess in a less degree only, the power of the Obi men of 
Africa, for the unhappy being who has excited their ven- 
geance, often pines to death under the imaginary fear of 
their supernatural power. {Hearne's Journey, &c. 231.) 
Charlevoix {Hist. Parag. i, 205,) describes the same con- 
sequences among the Guaranies of Brazil and Paraguay. 

It is to the conjurers that we attribute those rude paint- 
ings and sculptures observed on certain rocks in different 
parts both of North and South America, and which have 
been regarded by the Indians with superstitious veneration, 
Henepin {Travels, 135) describes one on the Mississippi, 
consisting of some figures made with red paint, to which the 
Indians were accustomed to offer tobacco, &c. when passing 
by in their canoes. 

Lewis and Clark {Expedition, i. 10, 11, 113; ii. 388,) 
describe several such on the Missouri. One, in particular, 
among the Ricaras, is visited by them for the purpose of divi- 
ning future events. Mackenzie, in the course of his travels, 
{Voy. Ixxiv. ) mentions several others which also receive re- 
ligious homage from the adjoining Indians. In short, I have 
seen accounts of them all over North America. 

In some instances these figures are engraved or cut into 
the rock, in a manner sufficiently rude. The one perhaps 
most notorious, is that on Taunton river, in Massachusetts, 
known by the name of the Dighton rock; concerning which, 
some very strange theories have been formed. To my eyes 
it differs in nothing from the painted rocks, except that the 
figures are rudely scratched or cut into the rock, which is 
but an immaterial difference. There are at least six such 
rocks in New England.* Others are found in various parts 

* Fiisl, the one on Taunton river; second, at Tiverton ; Ihird, at Rutland, all 
in Massachusetts; fourth, one near Newport, Khode Island; fifth, at Scalicook, 
on the Housatonic, (Connecticut;) sixth, at Brattleborough, (Vermont.) 



of the United States,* and are also met with in numerous 
instances in South America. {Humboldt's Besearch, i. 177; 
Pers. Nar. iv. 499; Koster's Travels, i. 124, &c. &c.) 

I consider the inscription copied by Maupertius in his 
Journey to Lapland, {Pink. Voy. i. 254) from a rock near 
Torneo, to be of similar intention on the part of the Lap- 
land conjurers. 

The execution of such works, is a matter of no great dif- 
ficulty even to Indians; for the miserable natives of New 
Holland, {White's Voy. 141,) also cut figures of men, wo- 
men, fish, and various animals, upon the surfaces of large 

In like manner, I presume, we must ascribe to the conjur- 
ers, the few sculptured impressions of human feet on rocks, 
that have been observed in certain parts of America; and 
which from analogous impositions in the Eastern continent, 
were no doubt asserted to mark a spot sacred to some divi- 
nity, whose presence had been thus miraculously acknow- 
ledged by the solid rock. 

Within a few years, the discovery of the impression of 
two feet on a limestone rock, containing shells and other 
marine substances, near St. Louis, state of Missouri, has been 
made public in our newspapers and journals, which some 
persons have gravely supposed, testifies to the induration of 
that rock since some individual had stood on the spot. If 
civilized men can thus deceive themselves, we may easily 
suppose it to have been a successful imposition among rude 

In an account of Virginia, {Hist, by a native, 182) it is said, 
"by the falls of James river, about a mile from the river, lies 
a rock, wherein are fairly impressed, several marks like the 
footsteps of a gigantic man, each step being about five feet 
asunder; these the Indians aver to be the track of their 

Clavigero {Hist. Mexico, ii. 15) says, that not only marks 
of human feet cut into stones have been found in that king- 
dom, but likewise those of animals, the purpose of which he 
was at a loss to conjecture. But any one who reflects upon 
the veneration that was paid to such works, can easily appre- 
ciate the motive. However, it is an ancient imposture, and is 

* There are others in the state of Ohio, two miles below Indian or King's 
creek. On the Altamaha, in Georgia. On the Alleghany, fifteen miles be- 
low Benango. On the Cumberland river, &c.; this list, as well as that in 
the preceding note, is given in the Memoirs of the Amer. Acad, of Arts and 
Sciences, iii. 175. 


recorded by Herodotus, ii. 257, to have been known among 
the Scythians, who shew on a rock, the impression of the foot 
of Hercules.* In many parts of India, the natives shew im- 
pressions of the feet of their gods. [As. Res. vi. 295.) One 
marked in a most curious and inhuman-like manner, is depict- 
ed in Symes' Embassy to Ava. 

In China, near the Great wall, the natives still shew the 
impressions of the feet of one of their gods called, by a Hin- 
doo traveller, Data'tre'ya, or Datta. {^s. Res. vi. 483.) 

Among the more sedentary Indian nations, a building was 
set apart for religious purposes, in which the apparatus of 
the chief conjurer was kept, together with some rude idols 
of wood or clay. 

The Narraganset Indians, who were in some respects su- 
perior to the other tribes of New England, had a temple, 
in which afire was kindled; and the people, at stated times, 
cast into the fire, by the hands of their conjurers or priests, 
whatever articles they esteemed valuable. [Putxhas^ P^^g- 
iv. 1868.) This temple was said to have been spacious. 

The Indians of Virginia, also had their temples, which 
were simply huts or cabins of larger size than their ordina- 
ry habitations, and nothing singular in their construction. 
They were sometimes decorated with rude carvings and 
paintings, which, it is possible, had some signification under- 
stood by them. They probably, contemplated maintaining 
in these buildings a perpetual fire, {Hist, of Vh'ginia, by a 
native, 166,) as was done among the demi-civilized Natchez; 
&c. The North American nations who erected temples of a su- 
perior construction, were those of Mexico, Louisiana, or Flo- 
rida; and those nations on the N. W. coast visited by Mac- 
kenzie and other travellers, whose architectural superiority 
to other barbarous tribes, we have, in a general way, related 
in a preceding page. 

At Coxe's channel, (N. W. coast) Marchand {Voyages^ i. 
409) describes "a temple standing on an elevated spot, sur- 
rounded by strong posts, six or eight feet high, in which are 
preserved all the tall trees that are there growing, but all the 
shrubs are carefully torn up, and the ground is every where 
put in order and well beaten. In the midst of this enclo- 
sure, where a cave is sometimes made, is seen a square and 
uncovered edifice, constructed with handsome planks, the 
workmanship of which is admirable; and a stranger cannot 

* Diod. Sic. lib. iv. chap. 1, says, that there are impressions of the feet of 
Hercules and his oxen, to be seen in Sicily. 


behold without admiration, that these planks are twenty-five 
feet in length, by four in breadth, and two and a half inches 
in thickness." 

At the island of St. Catherine, on the coast of California, 
Torquemada {Venegas Hist. Cafif. i. 105) states, "was a 
temple with a large level court, where the Indians performed 
their sacrifices. The place of the altar was a large circular 
space, with an enclosure of feathers of several birds of differ- 
ent colours, which I understood were those of birds which 
they sacrificed in great numbers; and within the circle, was 
an image, strangely bedaubed with a variety of colours, re- 
presenting some devil, according to the manner of the In- 
dians of Mexico, holding in its hand a figure of the sun and 

At the time the Spaniards visited this temple, they killed 
two large crows that were about the enclosure, which threw 
the Indians into great alarm; for they believed their Deity 
spoke to them by means of these birds. 

Though I presume the barbarous tribes of South Ame- 
rica, had rude temples like those we have described 
among the Indians of North America, the}'^ were either so 
few, or so little regarded by travellers, that I have been un- 
able to meet with any description of them. Southey 
{Hist. Braz. iii. 18.5, 206, 395) incidentally takes notice of 
temples among the savages of lirazil, but does not describe 

The account given by Charlevoix [Hist. Parag. i. 110) 
of the temple of the Xarayes, in which a large serpent was 
worshipped, is discredited by every judicious historian. 

Certain places among the N. American tribes had a sacred 
character, were consecrated to peace, and where it was un- 
lawful to shed blood. The Apalucha town of the Creek na- 
tion, which was the capital of their confederacy, was of this 
character. {Bartram\s T'ravels, 389.) 

The banks of a creek, known by the name of Pipe creek, 
which falls into the Great Sioux river, is also consecrated by 
the adjoining nations to peace. {Lewis and Clark'' s E-aped. 
i. 49; Carver'' s Trav. 62.) It derives that character from the 
circumstance of its waters flowing through cliffs of red rock, 
of which the Indians make their pipes; (I presume the calu- 
met,) and the necessity of procuring that article, has intro- 
duced a kind of national law, by which the banks of the 
creek have been made sacred. Tribes at war with each other, 
meet without hostility at these quarries, which possess a 
right of asylum. 


The medicinal springs near the sources of the Wachita 
river, in the Arkansas territory, have likewise a sacred cha- 
racter, and though enemies in war, the Indians there meet as 
friends. Hence the country to a certain distance around, 
was called the "land of peace." {Warden's Stat. Hist. 
U. S. iii. 135.) 

These facts so interesting to humanity, as restraining the 
cruel ravages of barbarous warfare, seem to have been pecu- 
liar to North America; for I have met with nothing analo- 
gous in the history of South America, nor in that of any 
rude people of the eastern continent, excepting perhaps, 
some limited spots in the Friendly islands. {Mariner's 
Descrip. 81, 149.) 

The asylums of Greece, and cities of refuge of the Jews, 
were for the protection of criminals only, and not to arrest 
the fury and destruction of war. 

Of the Burial of the Dead, among Barbarous Indian 


Though the ceremonies used at burials among the aborigi- 
nal tribes of America, cannot be considered, strictly speak- 
ing, of a religious nature, yet as the immortality of the soul, 
was for the most part directly signified in the ceremonials of 
their act of interment, it occurs to us, that what we have to 
say upon this subject, properly follows the preceding sec- 

As they considered the future life to be like the present, 
excepting a great mitigation of its inconveniencies, they 
buried their dead with those implements or utensils they 
had been accustomed to use when alive, and which were 
supposed to serve their requirements in the world of spirits, 
that they imagined to be situated in some remote country of 
the earth. The ceremony of burial was generally accompa- 
nied by those manifestations of grief, which even the rudest 
cannot restrain, when endeared friends and relations, are 
for ever taken from their eyes; but neither prayer nor sacri- 
fice were offered at such times. Occasionally, an eulogium 
was pronounced on the deceased, {Schoolcraft's IVavels, 
398,) but perhaps as this authority is recent, the practice has 
been indirectly copied from the custom of the whites around 

Some tribes of Brazil and Paraguay, are said to hurry 
their dead to their interment as soon as possible, and with 
apparent marks of brutal disregard. {Southey's Hist. Braz. 
iii. 393.) But their conduct in this particular, originates in 
a superstitious fear of the ghost of the person deceased. 


They expressed their grief for the loss of their friends, by 
cutting off their hair, painting their faces black, and by ab- 
staining from the use of personal decorations, for a greater or 
less period of time. In the first moments of their affliction, 
they almost universally lacerated their flesh, and inflicted 
various wounds on themselves, thrusting arrows through 
their limbs, &c. {Carver'' s Travels^ 2G4; Lewis and Clark's 
Exped. i. 89.) Azara, ii. 25, says, that he has seen some of 
the Paraguay tribes, lacerate themselves with knives, &c. in 
a shocking manner. 

It was a very general practice among the barbarous tribes, 
to cut off a joint of their little fingers, on such occasions. 
This practice has been observed by travellers in almost eve- 
ry part of America. 

For some time after interment, provisions of various kinds 
were exposed on the grave, for the subsistence of the invisi- 
ble spirit; who was believed to haunt the adjacent spot for a 
certain period before departing to the world of spirits. 

Both in N. and S. America, the most usual manner of ar- 
ranging the corpse, was to place it in the grave in a sitting 
position, and I believe without regard to its facing any par- 
ticular part of the heavens. None of the North Americans 
used a coffln, but some of the South American tribes buried 
their dead in large earthen jars. {Southey's Hist. Braz. iii. 
165, 619; Humboldt's Pers. Nar. v. 618.) 

If the deceased was a person of distinction, a mound of 
earth was often erected over him, which practice still exists 
among the tribes beyond the Mississippi. Lewis and Clark 
{Expedition i. 43,) describe one of this kind, recently made 
over a Maha chief, of twelve feet diameter at the base, and 
six in height, with a pole eight feet high, rising from the 

Burning the dead, does not seem to have been practised by 
the Indians except in a very partial manner. Father Creux, 
a Jesuit missionary, in Canada, in the year 1639, says, {His- 
toria Canadensis, 94,) that the Hurons, (Wyandots) burned 
the flesh and membranes, which they cut from the bones of 
persons that had been drowned; but the skeleton was buried. 

Vancouver {Voy.Vn. 182, 242) observed in two instances, 
that the natives on the N. W. coast burned their dead; but 
this may have been done, to prepare the bones for a distant 

Venegas {Hist. California, i. 104,) says, the Californian 
Indians bury or burn their dead, indifferently, choosing 
whether the one or the other be most convenient. 


Some tribes, exposed their dead upon scaffolds until no- 
thing but the skeletons remained, which were then taken to 
some particular place, often at a great distance, which was 
consecrated as the national burial ground. This was the 
practice of the Sioux, [Pikers Exped. 24; Carver's Travels, 
263,) and other North American tribes. 

The Chocktaws, after preparing the bones as above de- 
scribed, painted the skull, and preserved them in chests or 
boxes, in a house called the bone house. After a certain 
number had been collected, they were buried in a common 
grave, and a mound raised over them. {Bossu's Trav. 298; 
Bar tram, 516.) 

Some of the North American tribes, as the Six Nations 
and Wyandots, according to Charlevoix, {Canada, 278,) about 
every eight or ten years, disinter their dead, who had been 
buried in different parts of the country, and carry them to 
a place of general and final deposite. The manner in which 
this last inhumation was made, is described with much spirit 
by father Creux. {Historia Canadensis, 97.) Having 
brought their dead together, they first dug a pit thirty feet 
in diameter, and ten in depth, which was paved at the bot- 
tom with stones, and after several days of preparation and 
savage rites, which he details at length, the various skele- 
tons were laid down in the pit, to rest for ever. Over the 
whole, a mound was raised, by throwing in the earth they 
had dug out, together with rubbish of every kind. 

The nations of South America, from the country watered 
by the Orinoco to Patagonia, had their national burial places. 
Some were in caves, as that of the Atures, [Humboldt's 
Pers. Nar. v. 618,) where each skeleton was enclosed in an 
earthen jar. Other tribes seem to have committed their dead 
simply to the earth. {Azara, ii. 25, 31, 118; Southey, Hist. 
Braz. iii. 405; Falkner's Descrip. Patag., 118.) This last 
writer says, the people of Patagonia, will sometimes carry 
the bones of their dead three hundred miles, to the place of 

Among the Brazilian tribes, it was not an uncommon 
practice to put persons to death, to serve their chiefs in the 
other world. [Gumilla, Hist. Orinoque,\. 317; Charle- 
voix, Hist. Parag. i. 91.) None of the northern tribes, 
except the Natchez seem to have done this. 

It was a pretty universal custom among the American In- 
dians, to dry the bodies of their deceased kings and chiefs, 
and to preserve them in this state for a long time, in certain 
buildings or temples. This was practiced by the Indians of 


Virginia and Maryland, [Purchas, iv. 1701,) the people of 
Haiti, {Edward? s W. /. i. 73,) those of Cumana and Guiana; 
{Purchas^ v. 898,) besides many others of the barbarous 
tribes. These dessicated bodies are occasionally exhibited to 
the public under the term of Indian mummies. They are not, 
however, in any instance that I have met with, embalmed in 
the least degree, and have been simply preserved, by being 
deposited in saltpetre caves, and other peculiar soils. 

Some of the Brazilian tribes, eat their deceased relations, 
from motives of piety and affection. {Southey^s Hist. Braz. 
i. 379.) Others made a paste of the powdered bones of their 
deceased friends which they eat. To offer this bread to a 
stranger, was the highest mark of their esteem. Some other 
tribes mixed the ashes of the bones with water, and drank 
them. {Southey^s Hist. Braz. iii. 204, 722.) Garcilazo de 
la Vega, [Boy. Comment. 9,) says the ancient Peruvians eat 
their deceased parents. 

This extraordinary practice has been in use in different 
parts of the eastern continent, and under a more unnatural 
appointment. Thus the Battas of Sumatra, not only eat their 
deceased parents, but previously killed them when old and 
weary of life. Herodotus asserts the Paday or Padaioi of 
Asia, did the same.* {As. Bes. x. 203.) 

In almost every part of the eastern continent, we meet 
with practices and superstitions respecting the interment of 
the dead, analogous to those used by the rude American tribes, 
and which are perhaps altogether referrible to their similar 
belief, that the future life was only an amelioration of their 
condition, and not affecting their inclinations, or altering the 
occupations they had followed in the present world. There- 
fore, the dead among all barbarians, are interred with those 
things that were serviceable or agreeable to them when alive; 
and the practice is so notoriously common, that it would be 
useless to adduce particular instances. 

The custom of tearing the hair, and lacerating the flesh, is 
equally extensive, and requires no proof. Not only all rude 
tribes, but even some civilized nations of antiquity, inflicted 
severe wounds on themselves, during their mourning for 
their deceased friends. The only instance in which an anal- 
ogy can be perceived to the practices of the American sava- 
ges, is the one, in which a joint of the fingers is amputated, 
this strange custom, which we should consider so senseless 

• Herodotus describes the Callatiae and Iscdoiies, also, as being ia the jirac- 
tice of eating their deceased parents and friends. 


as to hardly expect it would be tolerated even in a single na- 
tion, has prevailed in various parts of the world. 

The dead, among the rude nations of the eastern continent, 
were generally buried in a supine position, though some na- 
tions did place the corpse in a sitting posture. The Nassa- 
mones of Africa are mentioned by Herodotus, ii. 346, for 
this peculiarity. Some of the Tartar nations, and the ancient 
inhabitants of the Orkney islands, also had this practice, as 
may be inferred from Pennant's description. {Introd. to 
Arctic Zool. 38.) 

No practice has been more universal, than that of erecting 
a mound or tumulus over the dead, this custom has been ob- 
served all over the world. 

Many nations of Asia, preserved the bodies of their deceas- 
ed friends like the American Indians, by simply drying them. 
The natives of Formosa and Corea, the ancient Colchians, 
&c. {Forster^s Observ. 563; Malte-Brun's Geog. book 43.) 
Some of the Tartar tribes, [Pickart. Relig. Ceremonies^ iv. 
366,) have been also remarked for this practice. 

The mountaineers of Tipra in Hindostan, dry the bodies 
of their deceased friends, on a stage raised over a fire, "and 
preserve the bones for superstitious means of augury." {Jis. 
Res. ii. 192.) 

We do not take notice of the customs of the Egyptians, or 
the ruder process of the Guanches of the Canary islands in 
this particular, as these people embalmed their dead, which 
I have no reason to believe was ever done by any American 

Of the Division of Time, and *dstronomical knowledgCf 
among the Barbarous Indians of America. 

The calendars of the ruder American tribes, were of the 
most imperfect kind, being only an uncertain division into 
moons, without any ingenuity. Some writers, {Carver's 
Trav. 160,) speak of their intercalating a moon or month 
occasionally, but I have seen nothing to justify this supposi- 
tion. In the first place, what should make them solicitous to 
regulate their year according to solar or lunar motions, and 
in the second place, how could they accomplish such a pur- 
pose? An intercalation requires repeated observations and at- 
tempts at accuracy, which is entirely inconsistent with the 
state of society which prevailed among the savage tribes of 
America. The people of Quito, who lived under the line, 
naturally enough, observed the difference between the sha- 


dows falling from perpendicular objects, according as the 
sun's declination was north or south, and did in part, regulate 
their year by this phenomenon. The Peruvians, also, made a 
kind of azimuth observation to the same effect; but these 
were demi-civilized nations, and if they who were so much 
superior to the savage tribes, had only been able to go thus 
far, I think we may safely infer, the others had not even ta- 
ken the first steps. 

Baron Humboldt {Research^ i. 407,) says, however, the 
people of Nootka sound have months of twenty days each; 
fourteen of which constitute their year; to which by very 
complex methods, they add a great number of intercalary 

To explain this statement, if indeed it be correct, we must 
imagine that some connexion anciently existed between these 
people, and the Tolteck or Mexican race, with whom the 
month or period of twenty days, was an important division 
of time: and it may have been continued in its present im- 
perfect use, among the natives of that particular part of the 
North West Coast, from ancient recollection. 

In a similar way, the Creeks have retained some of the in- 
stitutions of the ancient demi-civilized Natchez. 

Every where among the barbarous tribes, the moons or 
months, took their names either from the peculiar employ- 
ment of the season, or from the natural phenomena observed 
at such times; and which of necessity varied with every 

They had no division of time into weeks, nor have the 
days any particular names. {Charlevoix, 29.9.) 

It is said that the North American Indians, count their 
time by nights, and not by days, which I believe is tolerably 
correct. This custom, which has been sometimes consider- 
ed of Jewish derivation, was common among the ancient 
Germans, and was taken notice of by Tacitus. {Mor. Germ. 
chap, xi.) "Nee dierum numerum ut nos sed noctium com- 
putant. " We still observe this practice of our Saxon ances- 
try, when we say this day se^n night, i. e. seven m^i, fort- 
night or fourteen nights, &c. 

The Indians, in all probability, designated the more bril- 
liant constellations of the heavens, by names derived from 
their superstitions or their labours. Humboldt {Pers. Nar. 
V. 149,) mentions, the South American Indians thus distin- 
guishing Orion, the southern cross, &c. 

Condamine {Pink. Voy. iv. 234,) says that some of the 


Indians on the river Amazon, call the Hyades, in the head of 
the bull, the jaw of the Tapir, 

Heckewelder and Carver both state, that the northern In- 
dians know the pole star, and direct their journeys by it on 
certain occasions. 

Charlevoix {Canada, 297,) tells us, the Six nations call 
the Pleiades, ''the male and female dancers." 

GumilJa says, the Indians on the Orinoco distinguish the 
Pleiades by a particular name, and commence their year with 
their cosmical rising, {Hist, de POrinoque, in. 255.) This 
fact, however, I very much doubt. 

0/ Government, and Law, among the Barbarous Indian 


The state of society among the barbarous Indians of Ame- 
rica, required the surrender of little, if of any personal liberty 
to the general good; and though they are said to have laws 
and government, yet these words give no adequate idea of 
the actual state of their social compact. It is indeed a diffi- 
cult matter for us to appreciate even the principles by which 
they determined their nationality; for citizenship does not 
seem to have been acquired by birth in any particular land 
or country; and though the speaking of a common language 
might give a stronger claim, yet this alone does not seem to 
have been sufficient. The only principle that occurs to us, 
by which the nationality of any individual was admitted, 
was his connexion by blood or by adoption with other indi- 
viduals, who had been from their earliest remembrance, 
considered as constituting a part of the nation. Hence, a 
tribe may be considered as an association of relatives and 
kindred, and the nation, a general though loosely united so- 
ciety of tribes, who recognized in each other relations and 
kindred of distant degrees. This is countenanced by the 
terms, with which one tribe distinguishes another, such as 
grandfather, uncle, &c, implying a greater or less degree of 

*As the Indians sometimes applied these terms of uncle, nephew, &c. to 
tribes who spoke a language radically different, I am inclined to think they 
were then used from courtesy alone, as the word cousin, is employed among 
the European raonarchs. Charlevoix, (Canada, 201,) in speaking of the in- 
tercourse between individuals, says, they never call a man by his proper 
name, and if there is no relationship between them, they use the term of 
brother, uncle, nephew or cousin, according to each other's age, or accord- 
ing to the estimation, in which they hold the person they address. It is 
therefore a very natural course, to apply the same terms to nations, though 
of a different stock. 


They had certain hieroglyphic marks, by which the dif- 
ferent tribes were distinguished from each other, and in all 
likelihood the chief end of the punctures, with which they 
marked themselves, was originally for this purpose; {Hist, 
of Virginia, by a Native, 161,) though in after times, they 
made them subservient for manifesting their achievements in 
war, or even for simple decoration. In like manner, I con- 
sider the totem of the more northern tribes, to be nothing 
but a badge, distinguishing the different tribes; in which 
they have assumed a distinction derived from various ani- 
mals, instead of the arbitrary and more uncertain hierogly- 
phics of some other tribes. 

There are some curious anomalies observable in the form 
of government among the barbarous Indian tribes. On the 
one hand, their theory was undoubtedly monarchical, and on 
the other, their practice was licentiously democratic. As 
our observation applies to them generally throughout the 
continent, it may be supposed that many shades of difference 
prevailed; which we shall slightly mention in the course of 
our investigation; but as a general proposition, our statement 
is undoubtedly correct. Generally speaking, the democra- 
tic feature was the most evident; for as respects the actual 
government of the barbarous Indians, we can scarcely say 
they had any, for apparently there were no persons avow- 
edly at their head, to rule or direct their general affairs. 
They had neither an executive, nor judiciary; and the le- 
gislative department, consisted of any among themselves 
who by experience or assurance claimed a seat. Their 
councils, in great measure analogous to our republican town 
meetings, assembled onl}^ on particular emergencies, when 
they discussed the subject that thus immediately affected 
them. In general, the tribe or nation supported the 
views of the council, from a sense of the justness or expe- 
diency of the measure, and acted accordingly, though in- 
stances have occurred, in which a separation of the tribe 
into two distinct parts, arose from the difference of their 

As they had no public treasury, no one received any com- 
pensation for his services. Every man acted as he pleased, 
and consumed the produce of his hunting or labour, without 
tythe or tax; and went to war or staid at home, without im- 
peachment of his patriotism, though it affected his personal 
reputation as a man. 

Laws they had none; but their usages and customs, were 
for the most part founded on principles of equity and jus- 


tice. In cases of difference and dispute, their friends arbi- 
trated between them by friendly counsel and advice; or per- 
haps occasionally, by their personal influence of character. 

In some rare instances a kind of police officer was autho- 
rised to keep the peace. * 

Many persons may wonder how the Indians thus lived to- 
gether without laws and civil regulations, but they forget 
that the law of public opinion, prevails among them as 
it does with civilized nations, and it implies but a very sorry 
state of things among us, to suppose that we are only re- 
strained from committing fraud and violence, in consequence 
of our penal laws. Indeed it would be well for us, had 
public opinion less control, and not authorise acts not only 
contrary to human statutes, but even avowedly against the 
commandments of God. 

With the Indian, therefore, the countenance of his friends 
implied every thing gratifying to his feelings and pride; for 
who can bear the slight or contempt of his friends and 
equals. Even the most unprincipled sink under it to that 
degree, that our experience justifies the truth of the pro- 
verb, that there is honour among thieves to each other, who 
have none towards the rest of the world. From what we 
have said it will therefore appear very natural, that injuries 
were punished or retaliated by the injured party, in a manner 
that custom and usage justified, under the ban of public 

Thieves were compelled to make restitution; and in de- 
fault, the nearest relations were at times required to make 
good the loss. 

Murder was commonly punished by death, inflicted by 
the hand of the kindred of the deceased. I believe a com- 
promise by payments or gifts seldom or never took place. 
Sometimes a captive taken in war was accepted as a compen- 
sation: he was however adopted into the family of the de- 
ceased, whose situation he filled in every respect, {Charle- 
voix, 188.) 

These two crimes alone, seem to have certain penalties 
affixed to them, and in fact, are the only ones their state of 
society occasioned or permitted, that can be proportionably 
punished. Adultery in a woman without her husband's con- 

* Among the Tetons, one of the Sioux bands, Lewis and Clark, (Exped.i. 
89,) observed a kind of officer who exercised considerable authority in 
maintaining the peace. No resistance is made to him, and his person is sa- 
cred. These officers hold their appointments at the pleasure of the chief. 

A similar officer of the peace is mentioned by Henry, (Travels, 288, 291,) 
as being appointed, at least occasionally, among the Assinipoils by their chiefs. 


sent, was punished by him or not, as he pleased, and in 
what manner he chose. He sometimes bit off her nose, but 
in general having cut off her hair, she was discarded wiih 

It is occasionally said, that the Indians punished witch- 
craft. But this was only when an individual thought him- 
self injured by their sorcerers, and therefore he only aveng- 
ed his private wrong. There was no punishment for merely 
exercising magical arts, for they were distinctly recognized 
among them, as the essential qualification of their conju- 

Such was the general state of government among the rude 
tribes of America; which seems for the most part, directly 
consistent with their condition and general barbarity. Yet 
among them other peculiarities existed, which become in- 
teresting to us, as throwing some light upon the origin and 
formation of government. It is usually supposed that go- 
vernments have arisen from a sense of the advantages of mu- 
tual assistance. From such motives a number of free indi- 
viduals are supposed to have associated together, and given 
up a part of their individual liberty, that their general 
rights and happiness might be secured. I am apprehensive, 
however, that the exhibition I am about to make, is not 
very accordant with the theoretic views, that our republican 
writers have generally given on this matter. 

We are all familiar with the term Indian chief, or cacique, 
and that they possessed more or less influence, in the tribe 
or nation to which they belonged. For the most part we 
can easily comprehend, that individuals, remarkable for wis- 
dom and prudence in council, or for skill and bravery in 
war, should become distinguished among their fellows, and 
rise to such eminence in the nation, as to be considered the 
chief men; and this has been the case notoriously among all 
the Indian tribes with which we are acquainted.* But in 

* No one is acknowledged to be a chief among the North American In- 
dians, by any form or ceremony of any kind; the dignity is attained insensi- 
bly to himself and his countrymen. Venegas, (_Hist. California, i. 69,) ex- 
plains this matter with great exactness; "the dignity of chief was not ob- 
tained among these people by blood or descent; nor by age, suffrage, or a 
formal election. The necessity of applying for instruction to one or more 
persons in some common exigency, rendered it natural that with a tacit con- 
sent, he who was brave, expert, artful, or eloquent, should be promoted to 
the command; but his authority was limited to terms imposed by the fancy 
of those, who, without well knowing how, quietly submitted to him. Yet in 
every particular each one was entire master of his liberty." 

Among the Brazilians, before a warrior was admitted to the dignity of a 
chief, he had to give some terrible proofs of his ability to bear pain. (Gu- 
milla. Hist. Orin. ii. 287.) 


connexion with this fact, there is another not intelligible to 
me, of persons presiding over the Indian tribes as kings or 
princes, and sometimes with considerable state. Nor is this 
all, this dignity appears to have been hereditary, for it is 
sometimes described as being possessed by a child, and at 
other times by a woman. 

It is recorded in the history of Maryland, {Bozman^ 
Hist, of Maryland, 271,) at the time of its settlement, 
that, "the Werrowance or king, being an infant, the terri- 
tory was governed by his uncle." 

Cartier {Hackluyt, Voy. iii. 221, 242,) describes a Ca- 
nadian chief from near Montreal, who visited him, borne 
upon men's shoulders. He further says, that the Indians 
have a king in every country, and are "wonderfully obe- 
dient to him." 

Carver [Travels, 20, 166,) describes a woman, presiding 
over the Winnebagoes in virtue of hereditary right. 

Soto {Portuguese Gentleman, 49, 62, 68,) found female 
rulers in Florida, and the Spaniards, to their infamy, put to 
death Anacoana, an eminent female chief in Haiti. {Her- 
rera, Hist. America, i. 290.) 

Carver, {Travels, 165,) says, "that every band among 
the Sioux and northern Indians, have a chief who is termed 
the great chief, or the chief warrior, and who is selected in 
consideration of his experience in war, to direct all matters 
of a military nature. But this chief is not considered as the 
head of the state, for there is another, who enjoys a pre- 
eminence, as his hereditary right, and has the more imme- 
diate management of their civil affairs. Though these two 
are considered as the heads of the band, and the latter is 
usually denominated their king, yet the Indians are sensible 
of neither civil nor military subordination." 

Charlevoix {Canada, 123, 173, 182,) relates, that here- 
ditary chiefs are recognized by the Wyandots; who if mi- 
nors, have their dignity sustained by a regent, until they are 
of age. This dignity is also hereditary in the female line. 

Smith {Hist. New Jersey, 139,) mentions the same pecu- 
liarities among the Indians of New Jersey; and Pike, 
{Exped. 2d Append. 10, 14.) describes, hereditary chiefs 
among the Osages and Pawnees. 

The same features of hereditary dignity, were discerned 
in the West India islands and South America. Columbus 
{Herrera, i, 63,) describes a very young chief oi Haiti, who 
came to see him, carried on a palanquin by his subjects, 
who treated him with the greatest respect. 


Charlevoix {Hist. Parag. i. 88,) says, the Guaycurus of 
Brazil have hereditary caciques, who have unlimited authori- 
ty over their subjects; but in this last particular I consider 
him mistaken, and rely more upon the statement of Azara, 
{Voyages, ii. 95,) who says, the Guanas and other nations of 
Paraguay have hereditary caciques, who enjoy, however, no 
exemption from work, or any advantage from their title, ex- 
cept in their council chambers. He also observes, that some- 
times any Indian whatever becomes a cacique, when he has 
sufficient merit to be regarded as a capable man. When such 
is the case, the people withdraw their homage from the an- 
cient chief; and this, he says, is the general custom among 
all the nations of Paraguay. Molina {Hist. Chili, ii. 19, 57,) 
observes, that the dignity of chief is hereditary among the 

Falkner {Descrip. Patag. 120,) relates, that among the 
natives of Patagonia, the office of cacique is hereditary, and 
not elective; and that all the sons of a cacique have a right to 
assume the dignity, if they can get any Indians to follow 
them. Nevertheless {page 123,) they have no power to take 
any thing from their subjects, nor can they oblige them to 
serve in the least employment without paying them. 

We have thus throughout America, shewn that the princi- 
ple of hereditary dignity was recognized among so many dif- 
ferent tribes, that I am inclined to think, if we had more full 
and detailed accounts, it would be discerned in the institu- 
tions of every tribe or nation of the continent. Venegas, in- 
deed, {Hist. California, i, 69,) says, the people of California 
had no hereditary chieftains; but such might be easily over- 
looked by persons not very familiar with Indian manners; 
for they received little or no respect except on particular oc- 
casions, while the more popular war chiefs, who were thus 
recognized for their abilities, might be known to have de- 
served their title by their own individual merit. 

I must confess the greatest difficulty, to explain the absur- 
dity of hereditary dignities among barbarous savages. In 
this respect, however, the American Indians are not peculiar, 
for we shall presently shew the same principle, almost uni- 
versally established in all other parts of the world. But 
among the greater number of Indian tribes, the title gives no 
importance, little if any influence, and is attended, as far as 
we can perceive, with no apparent advantage to the possessor. 
Neither can we imagine the usefulness of any such personage 
to the people at large, for wisdom, talents and courage, are 
not hereditary; and if deficient in these particulars, for what 


else can the individual among savages be esteemed. Yet in 
defiance of all conjecture, the facts are as we have stated them, 
and I can guess at no principle of interpretation. 

Some persons may consider it not an unreasonable hypo- 
thesis, that the son should inlierit more or less of his father's 
talents; and that savages might be influenced by such a sup- 
position. But savages easily perceive the merits or defects 
of any individual who attempts to exercise influence among 
them; and generally despise one falling short of their stand- 
ard of excellence. How comes it then, that they can ac- 
knowledge a female as the head of their nation; one who ne- 
ver goes to war, nor performs an)'^ of those duties tliey ought 
naturally to expect from their chieftains? The following ex- 
tract will exhibit the truth of our observation in a remarka- 
ble manner. 

Dobrizhofier {Hist. Jibipones, i. 102,) relates, that among 
the Abipones, the eldest son of the cacique succeeds his father; 
but only provided that he be of a good character, of a noble 
and warlike disposition, in short, fit for the office; for if he 
be indolent, ill-natured and foolish, he is set aside, and another 
substituted, who is not related to the former by any tie of 
blood. The name of cacique is certainly a high title among 
the Abipones, but it is more a burthen than an honour, and 
often brings with it greater danger than profit; for they 
neither revere their cacique as a master, nor pay him tribute, 
nor attendance. They invest him neither with the authority 
of a judge, an arbitrator, nor an avenger. If he were but to 
rebuke them for their transgressions, he would be punished 
in the next drinking party, with the fists of the intoxicated 
savages. How often have their chief caciques experienced 
this. How often have they returned from a drinking party 
with swelled eyes, bruised hands, pale cheeks, and faces ex- 
hibiting all the colours of the rainbow." 

After such a relation, who would expect the following state- 
ment which is made by the same writer, [Hint. */lbipones, 
ii. 108,) ''I must not omit to mention, that the Abipones do 
not scorn to be governed by women of noble birlli; for at 
the time that I resided in Paraguay, there was a high-born 
matron, to whom the Abipones gave the title of Nelareycatc, 
and who numbered some families in herhoi-de. Her origin, 
and the merits of her ancestors., procured her the venera- 
tion of others." 

For the most part, the nations recognising hereditary dis- 
tinctions, deiermine the succession by the female line. Car- 
ver [Travels, 166,) says, that among the nortljcrn tribes on 


the death of a cliief, his sister's son succeeds him in prefer- 
ence to his own son; and if he happens to have no sister, the 
nearest female relation assumes the dignity. In this manner 
it happened, that a woman presided over the Winnebagoes, 
when he visted that people. 

An analogous custom of transmitting title by the female 
line, was established among the Wyandots; {Charlevoix Ca- 
nada, 315,) the Arrowacks of Cuba aud Haiti, [Edward'' s 
W. I. i. 73,) and in general throughout the continent. 

As might be expected, when we have shewn that digni- 
ties were hereditary in tribes, so there were also dignities of 
greater eminence hereditary in the nation. Hence among 
the different chiefs, some one had a paramount dignity. This 
feature is more distinguishable among those nations we have 
termed demi-civilized,of whom we shall hereafter discourse; 
but as the degrees of barbarity among the Indian nations are 
very different, we can observe the establishment of this prin- 
ciple, among the more numerous and powerful barbarian na- 
tions, and the sensible advances to feudal forms of govern- 
ment. Granganameo, a chief on that part of the coast of 
North Carolina, visited by Amidas and Barlow, {Hackluyt, 
iii. 246, 24S,) was of this description, being under the au- 
thority of a superior lord or chief. 

Powhattan, in Virginia, exercised an absolute authority 
over bis subordinate chiefs. Smith (Purchas, iv. 1703,) 
says, he was obeyed ''not only as a king, but as half a god 
they esteem him; what he commandeth, they dare not diso- 
bey in the least thing." 

The Araucanians, (Molina, Hist. Chili, ii. 57,) divided 
their country into four distinct parts, each of which was go- 
verned by a lord paramount, under the name of Toqui; but 
though this dignity was hereditary, the minor chiefs permit- 
ted him to use hut little authority. 

I believe there is no feature in the institutions of govern- 
ment among the American Indians, that can be considered 
peculiar to them; and all the strangeness of hereditary dis- 
tinction among barbarous nations, is to be observed in every 
other part of tlie world. 

Tlie ancient Germans, who in many remarkable instances 
resemble the American Indians, exhibited a close analogy to 
them in tliis particular. They had two chiefs presiding over 
them in like manner as the Indians. Tacitus relates "Reges 
ox nohilitale, duces ex virintc sumunt. " This custom the 
Rdinburgh Review [Decemher, ISl'^,) states, to have an- 
cirnlly provailod among the Spaniards until the reign of 


Alonzo: and able critics and antiquarians assign this principle, 
as the origin of the Maires du Palais, of the early French 

Tacitus further remarks, that the power of the German 
kings was not arbitrary nor unlimited; and that the General 
commands more by warlike example than by authority. 
{Mor. Germ, vii.) Yet he gives us the following remarka- 
ble exception in his account of the Sitones, {Mor. Germ, xlv.) 
^'Caetera smiles, uno differunt, quod foemina dominantur; in 
tantum, non modo a libertate, sed etiam a servitute degener- 
ant." In this nation arbitrary power had prevailed so far, 
that the common people were not permitted to carry arms. 

In Britain, says Tacitus, (Vita. Jigric. xvi.) there is no 
rule whereby females are excluded from the throne, or the 
command of armies, and therefore the Britons did not hesi- 
tate to follow in arms Boadicea, a queen descended from royal 

Tomyris, queen of the Scythians, is another instance of a 
female presiding over barbarians, a fact or statement well 
known to every reader of ancient history. 

The like state of things existed in Otaheite, as is related by 
Cook in his account of queen Oberea. Female rulers were 
observed also in the Tonga or Friendly islands. {Cook^ 
Voy. N. Hem. i. 308; Mariner Tonga Ids. Ill, 155.) 

The barbarous Garrovvs of India, also recognise female 
chiefs. [As. Res. iii. 18.) And female rulers are to be 
found at the present time, in Celebes, and other islands of the 
Indian ocean. [Crawfurd, hid. Archip. i. 74.) 

In what manner does this strange idea of hereditary dis- 
tinction, exert its influence on the minds of barbarians? Is 
it possible to conceive the benefit or advantage that results 
from such a state of things? and yet so firmly established is 
this principle among ceriain savages, that Mariner {Tonga 
Ids. 128,) says, in the Fi-iendly islands no merit, however 
great, can elevate a common man to the rank of a chief: 
Birth alone confers the distinction. 

As this principle is so universally admitted, we need not 
wonder that a savage nobility display a corresponding pride 
and haughtiness, even where the barbarity of their condition 
would make us least expect it. Nicholas, in the account of 
his voyage to New Zealand, very frequently takes notice of 
the establishment of rank and nobility among the savages of 
that island; and on one occasion gives us the following de- 
scription of the deportment of a chief, who observed hitn 
cleaning and salting fish: "So very aristocratical was he in 


his own notions, and such was the mean light in which he 
held all those who employed themselves at any kind of man- 
ual labour, that looking at us with a scornful glance, he sud- 
denly averted his eyes, as if afraid of being degraded by the 
very sight of our work; and exclaimed contemptuously," &c. 
{Voy. to New Zealand, ii. 35.) 

Not inferior in pride, were the nobility among the ancient 
savages of the Canary islands: Glas [Hist. Canaries, 66,) 
informs us, that when a young man claimed his nobility be- 
fore the proper officer, he was rejected among other disquali- 
fications, if he had ever "demeaned himself so far as to have 
dressed victuals, or had even gone to the folds to look after 
the goats or sheep, or if he had been ever known to have 
milked them, &c. " 

In like manner with the customs of the American Indians, 
the title to these hereditary dignities, was conveyed by the 
female line among many barbarians of the eastern continent. 
Thus the Picts [Pink. Hist. Scot. i. 261,) choose their kings, 
by the female side in preference to that of the male, alleg- 
ing a greater certainty of the royal blood. 

The Lycians of Asia Minor, [Herodotus, lib. \. chap. 173,) 
and the negroes of Congo, {Malte-Brun, Geog. book 6.9,) 
followed the same custom. 

From what Kaempher {Hist. Japan, i. 23,) says upon the 
order of succession to the crown of Slam, I presume the like 
rule existed among that people. 

Of JVars among the Barbarous Indians. 

Pride, ambition and avarice, which have scourged the ci- 
vilized world by war, also influence the rude and barbarous 
to increase the misery and unhappiness of each other, with 
every aggravation that malice and cruelty can devise. 
Though such reflections belong more properly to the mor- 
alist than the antiquarian, they are not entirely out of 
place, as prefacing details and researches upon the manner in 
which barbarians cairy on tlieir wars. For we do not at 
first sight, perceive how men like the Indians, having so few 
wants, and generally so great an extent of country to sup- 
))Iy those wants, should be yet almost continually engaged in 
bloody and unmerciful contests with each other.* 

* We must do the Indians the justice to state, that personal rencontres 
very seldom took place among them, and that private assassination was of 
rare orcurrenrc. 

Southey {tlM. Brazil, iii. 389, Sif!,) says, the Guaycurus decided their 
quarrels .imone; themselves by boxing, never resorting to weapons. Azara, 


The nature of man, however, is universally the same, not- 
withstanding the difference of climate or intellectual im- 
provement; and be the standard of ambition, avarice or 
pride, fixed at any degree of the moral scale that civilization 
or barbarism may determine, we shall find all the corres- 
ponding passions rising to that height, and influencing our 
conduct. Thus, while it is considered glorious in civilized 
nations, to conquer in war, and destroy thousands in battle; 
by the same influences, the rude Indians regard with admi- 
ration, the warrior who exhibits the most scalps of men, 
women and children, taken by his prowess or stratagem. 

The pride of the civilized man is gratified by the use of 
splendid robes, jewels and insignia of rank and office; and 
the Indian struts about daubed with red paint, and wearing 
the rudest articles which may be considered ornamental in 
the eyes of his tribe. Hence, though the possessions or the 
wants of the Indian appear insignificant to Europeans, they 
are to him, the summum bonwn, and he will invade or defend 
in gratification of his wants or desires, with all the earnest- 
ness that human nature can feel upon such occasions. 

The causes that produce war among the Indians, are very 
nearly the same as those that produce this calamity in the ci- 
vilized world. At one time it is to revenge a real or suppo- 
sed injury; at other times it concerns their rights of hunting 
or fishing in particular situations. Or it is to possess them- 
selves of the country of another tribe, that may be prefera- 
ble to their own.* Or it may be to gratify, what is called 
the love of military glory, a passion that constitutes an es- 
sential part of their character, as well as of all other men. 

Generally speaking, the Indians comnjenced their wars by 
committing some hostility, or doing some damage to the per- 
sons offending them; or if such individuals were out of their 
reach, to their kindred or nation, and the consequences soon 
follow, that the two tribes or nations make the quarrel com- 
mon cause. 

At other times, they notify the enemy of their determina- 

ii. 16, 33, 91, observed the same practice, among several of the Paraguay 
tribes. I have not met with any account of pugilism among the North Ame- 
rican tribes. 

Gumilla {Hist, de V Orinoque, ii. 231) says, that the Indians on the Orino- 
co, not unfrequently poison each other; and Dobrizhoffer, (Hist. Mipones, i. 
80, 83,) incidentally mentions the occurrence of this practice in Paraguay. 

* The Pottawottomies, who lived originally between lake Michigan and the 
Mississippi, sent word to the Miamis, "■Ikal they were tired of eating Jisli, and 
wanted meal;'''' and without waiting for an answer intruded themselves into 
their country. {Sandjord^s Jlliotigijiea, cxvii.) 


lion, by sending a defiance, either in words, or by a milita- 
ry weapon painted red. 

The war that follows, is a succession of skirmishing, sur- 
prisals, and massacres. As a chief end in their conflicts was 
to save themselves from loss, they seldom engaged in open 
battle, but cautiously advanced on their enemy unsuspicious 
of danger; and then, with horrid yells,* rushed on their 
foes, and slew every one without distinction of age or sex, 
not fortunate enough to make their escape. 

They seldom took the field with a numerous body of men, 
which indeed would be almost impossible, when every war- 
rior had to procure provision by his own exertion or labour. 
We may form a tolerably good idea of an Indian army, when 
it is remembered, that the principal chief, or general of the 
party, if that term be preferred, has to hunt for himself, and 
can only advise with his followers, upon what plan of opera- 
tions they shall pursue. 

Before they departed on a warlike expedition, the North 
American Indians waited for good dreams and favourable 
omens, and if they had even set out, an unhappy dream 
would cause them to i-eturn home. Ovale, [Pink. Amer. 
Voy. iv. 113,) describes the Indians of Chili on like occa- 
sions, using various superstitions, and observing auguries 
and omens to ascertain the fortune of the enterprise. 

Most of the Indian nations made their young men submit 
to a severe probation of their fortitude, before they were 
permitted to go to war. This was the ceremony called Hus- 
kanauing, among the Virginia Indians. 

The Guaycurus of Paraguay, {Charlevoix Hist. Parag. i. 
88,) had also a severe trial of the fortitude of their young 
men on such occasions; and in all probability, the terrible 
self lacerations mentioned by Azara, {Voy. ii. 135,) as com- 
mon among the Indians of Paraguay, have their origin from 
similar probationary exercises.! 

It has been a very universal custom with martial and rude 
nations, to admit their youth into the class of grown men 

* These yells or war whoops are not peculiar to the American Indians: 
Tacitus [Mor. Germ. chap. 3,) relates the practice of the Germans in lan- 
guage that exactly describes the Indian custom. He says, "the vociferation 
used upon these occasions is uncouth and harsh, at intervals interrupted by 
the application of their bucklers to their mouths, and by the repercussion, 
bursting out with redoubled force." This is precisely the Indian whoop. 
They raise a loud scream, at the same time clapping the mouth rapidly with 
the open hand. When the expiration is nearly finished, they cease the clap- 
ping with the hand, and collecting all their remaining force, suddenly raise 
the scream an octave higher, and then cease for ilie moment. 

t "lis ne donnent auciiiie rui'^ori de cette coutume, ct disent ingenument 


with more or less ceremony; and according to their degree 
of civilization, with greater or less cruelty of preparative ini- 
tiation. The Romans, the ancient German nations, and 
even the New Hollanders, {Collins^ N. S. Wales, 367,) prac- 
ticed similar ceremonies. 

The weapons made use of by the Indians in their wars, 
were bows and arrows, spears, clubs, &c. which we shall 
describe in regular order. 

With the exception of the Esquimaux, and people of the 
N. W. coast, who appear to be but indifferent archers, the 
bow generally was of great length and power. The arrow 
was commonly from three to four feet in length, tipped at 
the end with a sharp stone or bone, and occasionally with 
copper. They were also feathered to steady their flight. 

Spears and javelins, were not much used in North Ameri- 
ca, and then only, I believe, among those tribes who were 
accustomed to strike fish with such instruments. Vancou- 
ver, {Voy. iii. 254,) describes some natives of the N. W. 
coast using spears in an attack upon his boats; and Venegas 
{Hist. California, i. S5,) says, the Californians used in 
close engagements, "a kind of wooden spears, with the points 
hardened in the fire." 

The demi-civilized nations all used spears. 

In South America, the spear or javelin, either armed 
with flint, or hardened by half burning, was much more 
used than in the north. From the mountains of New Grena- 
da, to the river la Plata, {Purdias Pilgrims, iv. 1299, 
134S,) they seem to have been constantly employed in war. 
In some instances, the javelin was fastened by a thong to 
the wrist, which enabled the v/arrior to draw the weapon 
back, after it had been thrown. {Southey, Hist. Braz. iii. 

Some of the Indians of Darien, [Herrera, ii. 51,) threw, 
with great force and effect, by "a sort of sling," darts or 
staves, whose points were hardened by fire. The Muyscas of 
New Grenada, {Herrera, v. S6,) are noticed for the same 

The Tapuyas, and some tribes along the river Amazon, 
{Southey, Hist. Braz. i. 620,) threw their darts or javelins 

qu'ils n'en saveiit point d'aulre que la dcsir de faire voir qu'ils sont gens de 
courage." (./Izarn.) 

Dobrizhoffer (Hht.Jlbipones, ii. 35,) says, they inflict these terrible wounds 
on their persons, to emulate one another, and to obtain a reputation for bra- 


by means of an instrument called by Ihe Spaniards, estolica, 
which it is said was also used by the Peruvians. This 
instrument, or throiving-stick, as it is sometimes called, is 
described as being flat, between four and five feet long, and 
three fingers broad. At one end a bone rest was fixed, 
against which the end of the javplin was placed. When laid 
along the throwing-stick, the Indian grasping the stick, threw 
the dart from him, which flying off", left the estolica still in 
the hand, and ready to receive another weapon. It is said 
that they could throw their darts with great accuracy by this 

The Aluetians on the N. W. coast, {Langsdorf^ s Voy. 
342,) the Esquimaux, {Parry, 2d Voy. 508,) and the Green- 
landers, according to Crantz, used a similar contrivance. It 
is called a "hand board," by the navigators above quoted. 

A similar instrument was used among the New Zealanders 
of the South Pacific ocean, [Hawksworth, Voy. iii, 259,) for 
throwing their spears. 

The Greeks, {TInrwood, Greek Antiq. 292,) anciently 
threw their darts b}' a strap. 

Many tribes, both in North and Soutli America, used a 
long and hollow reed for projecting small darts or arrows 
by means of the breath. Though this instrument was used 
chiefl}'^ in hunting or for amusement, yet it was also occasion- 
ally used, especially in South America, for warlike purposes. 
Bossu {Travels, 306,) notices it among the Chocktaws, and 
gives the following description: '"They are very expert,'* 
says he, "in shooting with an instrument made of a hollow 
reed about seven feet long, into which they put a little ar- 
row, feathered with the wool of the thistle, which they blow 
at small birds." 

This reed was also used in Mexico, and was there called 
cerbotiane, which has been corrupted to sarbacane, by which 
appellation it is now generally known. Montezuma com- 
pared the muskets of the Spaniards to this instrument. 

Dampier {Voy. i. 41,) describes the sarbacane, among the 
natives of the Isthmus of Darien; and they were also used 
in Surinam, {Pinkard^s TV. Indies, ii. 407,) and Guiana, 
where they became a formidable weapon from the practice 
of poisoning the dart, and the distance to which it could be 
projected. Waterton {Edinburgh Review, Feb. lS2G,)says, 
a reed ten or thirteen feet long, would enable a person to 
throw a dart three hundred feet. 

This tube is well known in the islands of the Indian 
ocean, especially in Borneo, and the less civilized islands of 


the Archipelago. [Raffle^ s Hist. Java, \. 29Q.) These darts 
are generally poisoned with a vegetable preparation. 

It was a pretty general practice with the Indians inhabit- 
ing the country watered by the Orinoco and the lands ad- 
jacent, to poison their weapons both for purposes of hunt- 
ing and war. It is not easy to say how far this custom pre- 
vailed. Herrera (vi. 35, 236,) describes it to have been 
done in Tucuman in the south west; and in one instance in 
Quito, at Rio de la Hambre; (iii. 373,) and also at Old Gau- 
temala, (iii. 336, 337,) in the north.* The Indians inhabit- 
ing the country between the river Amazons and the moun- 
tains of New Grenada, have been especially distinguished 
for this barbarous practice among themselves. Against the 
Spanish invaders, no practice can be considered barbarous. 

The poi.son used by these people is known by the name 
of Curare, and is of the most deadly kind, though it does 
not injure the flesh of animals thus killed for the purposes 
of food. It is a vegetable preparation, and the process for 
making it may be seen in Herrera, {Hist. America, i. 
349,) or Humboldt, {Pers. Nar. v. 516.) 

I know of no well authenticated instance of any North 
American Indians poisoning their weapons. In a book en- 
titled Indian Wars in the West, page 181, it is said, that 
the Catawbas on one occasion, to destroy their enemies, 
placed in a path sharp sticks smeared with the poison of the 
rattle-snake; but this seems to me incredible, from the small 
quantity that could be procured even with the greatest in- 
dustry from such reptiles. 

The fact of poisoning the darts used with the sarbacane, 
we have already mentioned as being practised by the islanders 
of the Indian ocean. They also poisoned their arrows. This 
was also done by some of the mountaineers of Hindostan. 
{As. Res. iv. 81, 89.) Tolland {Hist. Druids, 102,) men- 
tions an occasion, when the ancient Britons poisoned their 
arrows used in battle. 

The sling was but little used among the barbarous tribes. 
Egede, {Hist. Greenland, Ixiii.) says, it was used by the 
Greenlanders, and the Esquimaux employed it against Davis 
in 1585. {Pink. Am. Voy. ii. 191.) 

* Though I have taken notice of the Spanish account, that the Indians 
near Old Guatemala poisoned their darts, as being the most northerly in- 
stance 1 have met with; yet 1 am inclined to think it an exaggeration, or 
rather not true in fact. The practice is not mentioned by Bernal Dias, 
who was engaged in the conquest of that country, and who was too vain- 
glorious, to have omitted thii circumstance in the enumeration of his per- 
sonal dangers, if it had been practised in that kingdom. 


Some of the South American tribes at least occasionally 
used the sling. {Sout hey ^s Hist. Brazil, iii. 175,) Dobriz- 
hoffer, [Hist. Mipones, ii. 360,) says, incidentally, that the 
Guaranies were expert in the use of this weapon. 

The Indians inhabiting the country adjacent to the river 
La Plata, used a missile weapon peculiar to that part of 
America, which is now called holas by the Spaniards. Falk- 
ner [Descrip. Patag. 130,) describes it as consisting of two 
or three round stones, each covered with hide, and connect- 
ed together at a common point or centre by as many pieces 
of hide rope, each three or four feet long. The person 
using it whirled these balls around his head, so as to give ihe 
whole a rotary motion, and then threw them at the parti- 
cular object with such dexterity, as to entangle man or beast 
according to Azara, ii. 46, even at the distance of one hun- 
dred paces. 

Soulhey {Hist. Brazil, ii. 369,) describes this instru- 
ment, as having been very fatal to the first settlers on the 
La Plata and in Paraguay. The Indians of Paraguay, Pata- 
gonia and Chili, made use of a running noose in their battles, 
which they threw with great dexterity over an enemy, as 
far as thirty or forty paces distant. It is now called luzo by 
the Spaniards, is made of hide rope as thick as the little fin- 
ger, and together with the bolas just described, is constantly 
used in hunting, and not unfrequently in battle at the pre- 
sent day. 

The Peruvians, {Herrera, v. 25,) anciently used this con- 
trivance. It seems to have been confined in America to the 
nations we have mentioned. It was in ancient times used in 
Asia; Herodotus, (Polym. chap. iS5,) describes it being em- 
ployed by the Sagartii, one of the Persian tributaries in the 
army of Xerxes. 

The Alans appear to have possessed a similar contrivance; 
for Josephus, [Jewish War, chap. vii. book vii.) describes 
Tiridates king of Armenia, to have been in great danger 
from a net cast over him, from a great distance. 

The Huns, Jaxamati and Parthians, used the lazo, as ap- 
pears from the following description of Ammianus Marceli- 
nus, {Ciira Valesii, 617, "bojitesquedum mucronum noxias 
observant, contortis laciniis illigant, ut laqueatis resistentium 
membris equitandi vel gravandi adimant facuitatem." 

The tomahawk, v\hich is sometimes considered a weapon 
peculiar to the American Indians, was originally a club 
carved into some convenient shape. It was most commonly 
a stout stick, about three feet in length, terminating in a 


large knob, wherein a projecting bone or flint was often in- 
serted. The hatchets of the Indians that are now called to- 
mahawks, are of European device, and the stone hatchets so 
often found in our fields, and called by the same term, were 
not military weapons but mechanical tools. 

The common notion, that the Indians threw their toma- 
hawks in battle at their enemies, is as absurd as to suppose, 
that the pistols of a hussar are thus used, because they may 
be occasionally thrown at an enemy, after being discharged. 
The French call the tomahawk, un casse tete, or ''skull 
breaker," which emphatically declares its use. 

The Pogam.oggon used by several North American tribes, 
was a weapon of similar use, and is thus described by Lewis 
and Clark. [Expedition, i. 425.) "The Shoshonee In- 
dians use an instrument which was formerly employed 
among the Chippeways, and called by them pogamoggon. It 
consists of a handle twenty-two inches long, made of wood, 
covered with leather, about the size of a whip handle. At 
one end is a thong two inches in length, which is tied to a 
round stone, weighing two pounds, and held in a cover of 
leather. At the other end, is a loop of the same material, 
which is passed round the wrist to secure the instrument, 
with which they strike a very severe blow." 

Carver [Travels, 192,) describes a similar kind of wea- 
pon, in use among some tribes west of the Mississippi. 
This is a stone curiously wrought, and fastened by a string a 
yard and a half long to the right arm, a little above the el- 
bow. They swing this stone in battle, in the manner of a 
club, with great dexterity. 

We do not meet with weapons like the pogamoggon else- 
where in America, except in Patagonia; where Faikner 
[Descrip. Patug. 130,) and Azara (ii. 47,) describe it in 
nearly the same words as is done by Carver. 

The Masse dfarmes of Roland and Oliver, so famous in 
the history of Charlemagne, was of the same form with the 
pogamoggon, though much heavier. See French Encyclo- 
pedia, art. Jinnurier. 

There is nothing peculiar in the kind of club employed 
by the American Indians, except among those of Brazil and 
Paraguay, where a heavy and powerful one was used under 
the name of macana; which is thus described: The maca- 
na or tacape, was five or six feet in length, and shaped like 
a broad paddle, sometimes nearly a foot in breadth, and an 
inch and a half thick at the widest part, but brought to an 
edge all round. As it was made of the iron wood, or such 


like heavy wood, it was little inferior in execution to an iron 
axe. {Levy in Purchas, iv. 1334. Southey^s Hist. Bra- 
zil, i. 205. ) 

The same weapon in every respect was used among the 
natives of the South Sea islands, where it bears the name of 

No nation of America but the Toltecs or Mexicans, posses- 
sed any weapon like a sword, and their substitute for it was 
a long stick, set with two opposite rows of sharp flints, and 
which was wielded like the sword. 

The Greenlanders, [Hackluyt, iii. 38,) the Sioux, {Carver, 
193,) and some of the Rocky mountain Indians, {Mackenzie, 
Voy. i. 36,) are said to use daggers of bone; but I think it 
most probable, that the instrument noticed by the travellers 
above mentioned, was a knife for their necessary uses, rather 
than a weapon. 

In a few instances it would seem, that some of the barba- 
rous tribes, attempted to protect themselves in time of battle, 
by a kind of defensive armour. Charlevoix (C«na</a, 143,) 
describes the Algonquin and Iroquois nations, as using in 
former times a kind of cuirass, made of rushes or pliable 
sticks worked together like basket work; the use of which 
they discontinued from finding it no protection against fire 

Herriot {Hackluyt, iii. 276,) in his description of Virginia, 
says, that some of the natives, had ''armour made of sticks 
wickered together with thread. " 

A more common defence however against missile weapons, 
was attained by covering the body with several undressed 
skins, or the hides of various animals. But though thus used 
both in North and South America, I do not think the prac- 
tice was ever very general. Lewis and Clark {Exped. i. 425,) 
relate, that the Shoshonee Indians united the skins employed 
for this purpose with a mixture of glue and sand. In this 
particular I believe they are remarkable. 

No defensive armour of any other kind was used, except 
the target or shield, which was pretty generally employed in 
both North and South America. Some tribes west of the 
Mississippi, still use them in their wars, but generally they 
have fallen into disuse; for being made of hide or wood, they 
are no protection against a musket ball, and besides are in- 
commodious to the management of a gun. 

From the evident importance of military signals in time of 
battle, the Indians may be said to have had a kind of rude 
military music. In North America, their skill did not ex- 


ceed the use of ronchs, and occasionally the addition of a bad 
drum. In South America it would seem the system was 
more perfect. Gum ill a {Hint. Orinoque, ii. 294,) says, the 
Indians on the river Orinoco use trumpets, bugles, and 
drums, to direct their march and excite them to combat. It 
was in this manner they encountered Orellana. The im- 
mensely large drums* used by the Indians on the Orinoco, 
were not properly military, as their purpose was to alarm the 
country in case of an invasion. Gumilla says they may be 
heard three or four leagues distant. They were made en- 
tirely of wood, and were beaten on the side in a particular 
place. If struck elsewhere they give no sound. 

For purposes of defence against sudden surprisals, many 
tribes both in North and South America, fortified their vil- 
lages by fixing rows of strong pickets around them, and some- 
times by raising an earthen bank or wall, into the top of 
which was planted a row of palisadoes. This practice pre- 
vailed as might be supposed among the more sedentary tribes. 
We shall mention in a future page, the fortifications of Mex- 
ico, and those of Florida and Louisiana, the storming of which 
cost the first Spanish invaders much trouble and blood. But 
works of an inferior kind, were by no means uncommon 
among the rude tribes. 

Thus the town of Hochelaga, near Montreal, in Canada, was 
described by the first French navigators of the St. Lawrence, 
to be of a round form, encompassed by three lines of wooden 
ramparts about two rods high. There was but one entrance 
through this wall, which was well secured with stakes and 
bars. On the inside of the rampart, were stages accessible 
by ladders, on which heaps of stones were laid in a proper 
manner, by which the inhabitants could, together with their 
other weapons, defend their town, which consisted of about 
fifty houses. {Hackluyt, iii. 220.) Charlevoix, [Canada, 
241.) describes the pahsadoing of towns among the Canada 
Indians as a common practice. 

Champlain describes a fort, made of *'a number of posts 
set very close to one another," on the St. Lawrence above 
Trois Rivieres. (PwrcAa*, iv. 1612.) In another account, 
page 1644, the writer speaks of ''forts which are great en- 
closures, with trees joined together like pales, within which 
are their houses." 

The Chevalier Tonti {Trans. N. York Hist. Society, ii. 
223,) says, speaking generally of the North American In- 

* Gumilla says these drums were near three ells, {aunes) in length, and as 
large as two men could grasp. 


dians, that they know how to ^'fortify their camps with en- 
trenchments and palisadoes." 

Amidas and Barlow [Hackluyt,, iii. 248,) describe the 
Indians on the coast of North Carolina, as fortifying their 
towns with palisadoes. 

Many nations on the Missouri, still throw up earthen em- 
bankments around their villages; as may be seen recorded in 
Lewis and Clark's expedition, i. 54,92, 94- 97, 112, ii. 380, 
&c. As these ramparts do not appear to exceed four or five 
feet in height, they were probably calculated to receive a 
row of palisadoes. 

Pike, {Expedition^ 19,) says, that the Sioux, when in 
danger from enemies in the plains, very soon cover them- 
selves, by digging holes and throwing up small breast works. 

The South American tribes, fortified themselves in like 
manner with pickets and palisadoes, as may be seen in 
Southey's Hist. Brazil, i. 162, 185, and various other places. 

The Indians of Buenos Ayres, and the western parts of 
Paraguay, fortified themselves with much labour, by ram- 
parts, ditches, &c. See account of Mendoza's invasion. 
\Purchas, iv. 1352, 1356, 1361, Charlevoix, Hist. Parag. 
i. 156.) 

The Indians on the North West Coast, and no doubt else- 
where, secured their villages by locating them in places of 
difficult access, and further protected them by some artificial 
defences. Dixon {Voy. to North West Coast, 206,) de- 
scribes one, wbich he states to be exactly like the fortified 
towns of New Zealand. 

Professor Pallas mentions frequently in his travels, the 
earthen fortifications of Russian Tartary, which are compar- 
ed to American works of a similar kind. We suppose, that 
he alludes to those ancient works of considerable magnitude 
observed in the Western country; but these we believe, to 
be the monuments of a demi-civilized people, who will be 
treated of hereafter. 

The Indians of North America, generally tore off the hairy 
scalp from their slain enemies, which they bore off as a tro- 
phy of their prowess. This practice prevailed from the 
tribes adjacent to the Esquimaux, to the frontiers of Mexico, 
but neither in that empire nor elsewhere to the south, do 
we distinctly recognize the practice of scalping. The bar- 
barous Chichimecas, {Herrera, vi. 394,) adjoining the Mexi- 
cans, are the most southern people remarked for this custom. 
And except in California, where they scalped the dead, {La 
Pey rouse, Voy. ii. 223,) the practice does not seem to have 


crossed the Rocky mountains but in a partial manner. 
Lewis and Clark, {Exped. ii. 47,) were struck with this 
fact, and observe on descending the Columbia river, among 
the Chilluckittequavv nation, "the chief shewed us fourteen 
fore fingers taken from enemies; this is the first time we 
had ever known the Indians to take from the field any- 
other trophy than the scalp." In further corroboration we 
may add, that the natives of Nootka Sound, [Mears Voy. 
i. 200, 2^4, 288, 330,) carry the skulls of their slain ene- 
mies off the field as trophies, and hang them up in their 

The South American Indians in general, cut off the head 
for a trophy, Charlevoix however says, {Hist. Parag. i. 92^ 
199,) the Guaycurus of Paraguay bring home the scalps of 
their dead enemies, with which the women adorn them- 
selves. It is also stated, (Southey''s Hist. Braz. iii. 721,) 
that the Yucunas of Brazil, preserved scalps taken in war. 
But notwithstanding the term scalp, I rather think that the 
Brazilians did not use the northern practice; for their gene- 
ral trophy was the skin flayed from the face. (Southey's 
Hist. Brazil, i. 162, 345.) If the nations just mentioned, 
did really scalp, the practice at any rate was very circum- 
scribed in South America.* 

The South American tribes, very generally made flutes 
of the bones of those they had slain in war, which were 
shewn as their trophies. 

It was likewise a practice among the Brazilian tribes, 
(Pu7xhas, iv. 1189,) to cut a hole in their own mouths, 
cheeks, eyebrows or ears, for every foe they had slain. 

Gumilla, (Hist. Orinoque^ i. 193,) describes the Caraibs, 
as wearing necklaces of human teeth as their trophy. 

Scalping, certainly prevailed in eastern Asia among the 
Tartar nations of antiquity, Herodotus, {Melp. c. 64.) thus 
describes the Scythian practice; "the Scythians strip the 
skin from the head of their slain enemies in this manner. 
They make a circular incision behind the ears, then taking 
hold of the head at the top, they gradually flay it, drawing 
it towards them; they next soften it in their hands, remov- 

* DobrizhofFer, {Hist. Mipones, ii 408,'* says, the Abipones cut off the heads 
of their slain enemies; but if they be obliged to remove suddenly, "they 
strip the heads of the skin cutting it from ear to ear beneath the nose, and 
pull it off along with the hair " 

Though this practice is undoubtedly scalping, yet it seems by the above 
account, to have been applied only to heads already cut off; and when it was 
desirable to relieve themselves from any unnecessary weight of transporta- 


ing every fleshy part which may remain, by rubbing it with 
an ox's hide; they afterwards suspend it thus prepared, 
from the bridles of their horses, when they both use it as a 
napkin, and are proud of it as a trophy; and whoever pos- 
sesses the greater number of these, is deemed the most il- 

But besides this practice, he describes them as also pre- 
serving the skin and nails of the right arm, and that some 
will prepare the skin of the whole body, as a covering for 
their horses. 

Ammianus Marcelinus, [Valesii, 620,) describes the Huns 
as scalping the dead. "Nee quidquam est quod elatius jac- 
tent, quam homine quolibet occiso: proque exuviis gloriosis, 
interfectorum avulso capitibus detractas pelles pro phaleris 
jumentis accomodant beliatoriis. " 

It has been thought by some authors, that the Gauls in 
like manner took away the scalp as a trophy. Macauley 
(JRud. Pol. Sciejice, 321,) quotes Strabo as saying, that 
when the Gauls were returning from battle, they used to 
suspend the scalps (xsipaXa?) of their enemies about the necks 
of their horses; and afterwards set them up as trophies in 
their houses. And Livy also as describing the Gauls, 
"Equites pectoribus equorum suspensa gestanles capita et 
lanceis infixa." I think, however, the above quotations 
only justify the idea of cutting off the whole head; for 
Livy {Lib. xxiii. chap. 24,) observes, that the Gauls after 
cutting off the head of the consul Posthumius, emptied the 
head, as their custom is, and mounted the skull with gold, of 
which they made a consecrated vessel. If this was their 
custom, they could not have scalped. 

It has also been thought, from a passage in Polybius, that 
the Carthagenians scalped their enemies. But it is evident 
on that occasion, it was a barbarous act of torture on living 
men. It occured in the mutiny of Spendidus and Matho, 
and is thus described, [Hampton's Poly bins, \. 154.) "After 
cutting off the hands of the prisoners, they then tore away 
the scalp from the heads of these unhappy men, and having 
broken and miserably mangled all their limbs, cast them 
still breathing into a pit." 

It is incorrect to say the Carthagenians did this; it was 
their allies, who were of various nations. But it was evi- 
dently done with different views from those of the Ameri- 
can Indians, or the Huns, who only take these trophies 
from the dead, as marks of their prowess. 

There are but few instances of this practice among the 


more modern nations of the old continent, and those chiefly 
among the Tartar races. The Turks [Mod. Univ. Hist. iv. 
6,) are said, to have scalped the dead who were left on the 
field after the defeat of the emperor Manuel. 

The Arabs, at least on one occasion, are said to have 
scalped their dead enemies. [Mod. Univ. Hist. i. 2S4.) 
"His men cut off all the heads of the Greeks they had 
slain, scalped them, and carried them fixed on the point of 
their lances." 

The practice of the North American Indians in scalping 
their enemies, has been insisted on as a strong proof of their 
descent from the Tartars, and other nations of Eastern Asia. 
But though the conformity of practice be evident, it does 
not appear to us to warrant so positive a conclusion. We 
know that barbarians every where, take something or other 
from a slain enemy as a mark of victory, and this principle 
is well recognized even among civilized warriors, who re- 
gard the arms or ornaments of a conquered foe with similar 
pride. The savage more generally mutilates the dead body; 
he cuts off the head, the ears, the hand,* and sometimes a 
less equivocal token of virility, as is related by Bruce, 
{^Travels, iv. 652,) of the Abysinians. 

We consider the practice of scalping as practiced by the 
Scythians and American Indians, to have arisen from the 
peculiar manner in which those nations generally shaved 
their heads, leaving only a tuft of long hair on the vertex, 
which thus becomes a prominent object, and seems to be the 
most natural trophy they could take from a dead enemy, 
who for the most part was naked, and without arms or pro- 
perty of any material importance; and the mere possession 
of which, did not guarantee the fact of a personal triumph 
over an enemy. 

The Indians of North America do not make prisoners of 
war, unless they have a reasonable expectation of carrying 
them safely off; they almost universally put to death those, 
who from wounds or other disability, are unable to keep 
pace with them in their retreat. 

Many of the North American tribes, when they had cap- 
tured an enemy of distinguished military reputation, in the 
spirit of revenge and exultation, put him to death by fire and 
torture, in which every contrivance that malice and cruelty 

* The Tartars now cut off locks of hair, and the ears, as their trophies. 

{Mod. Univ. Hist. iv. 354.) 

The people of Nepaul cut off the nose and lips. (^s. Res. ii. 319.) 

The natives of Java sometimes cut off the ear. {Crawfurd, Indian Archip. 

i. 244.) 



could devise, were inflicted upon the unhappy captive. They 
generally not only bore the torture with seeming indiflference, 
but reproached their tormentors, with their ignorance of not 
knowing how to put them to the exquisite pain that they 
had inflicted on their relations and friends. 

Captives of inferior note, after being very brutally treated 
on their arrival at their enemies' villages, were usually adopted 
into the nation by women who had lost their husbands, sons, 
or even other of their kindred, to whose rights and privi- 
leges they succeeded in every particular, and were as much 
under the protection of the tribe afterwards, as if they had 
been born among them. 

Women were distributed among the men, and children in 
like manner, to whoever had need or would take charge of 
them. They were commonly considered as servants or 
slaves. The men are sometimes also treated as slaves, but 
generally speaking this was rare in North America,* but 
common in Brazil and Paraguay. 

I know of but one instance in which a female prisoner was 
put to death by torture. This was among the Indians living 
near the bay of St. Bernard. {Joutel, Nar. 128.) 

The customs of the South American nations varied incon- 
siderably from those of the North; except in the following 
particulars. They do not appear to have tortured their cap- 
tives to death, but some nations fiUtened them, and made a 
feast on the body. Azara denies the cannibalism of the Pa- 
raguay tribes, but he is in opposition to a number of credit- 
able travellers and missionaries, who are abundantly explicit 
as to the fact, and who expressly state, that the attachment of 
the Indians to these detestable feasts, was the chief obstacle 

• Bartram (^Travels, 185,) describes a Creek chief attended by Indian slaves 
captured in war. The same writer observes, (pages 184,211,) that slaves 
marry among themselves, and that their children become free and enjoy the 
rights of the nation in every respect, though the parents may continue slaves 
all their lives. 

Though not altogether relevant, I think it proper to introduce in this note 
an important fact, which may serve towards estimating the moral and polit- 
ical effects of the African slave trade, in that unhappy quarter of the globe. 

The French missionaries in Canada, lamenting the horrid tortures inflict- 
ed by the Indians upon their captives, encouraged the practice of buying 
them, from the humane and religious motive of preserving their lives. The 
consequence was, that the Indians perceiving the value of prisoners, way- 
laid and surprised individuals, and made war on one another for this very 
purpose, and filled the whole country with war and desolation. In the mean 
time, they continued to burn and torture all who fought bravely against them, 
and only sold women and children, and those prisoners who were little dis- 
tinguished. Thus the humane attempt of the missionaries, occasioned such 
enormous outrages, that they had to petition the French king to repeal his 
act authorizing such purchases, and to forbid his subjects to buy any Indian 
captives. {Carver''i Travels, 225.) 


to their civilization. {Southey^s Hist. Braz. i. 218, &c. 
and Purchas, iv. 1189.) As far as I have been able to in- 
quire, cannibalism prevailed in the northern parts of Para- 
guay, Brazil, Guaiana, and the adjacent countries possessed 
by the same races of men. The practice does not appear to 
have extended (unless very partially) to Peru or Chili, and 
1 believe no where north of the mountains of New Grenada* 
unless as an isolated and extraordinary circumstance.! The 
Atacapas of Louisiana, [Du Pratz, ii. 152,) are said to have 
been anciently cannibals, but I know not upon what particu- 
lar authority the statement is made. 

I do not think that the savages of the eastern continent 
generally, put their prisoners to death with the cruelties of 
the North American tribes, though we are not without in- 
stances of such barbarity among them. 

Omai represented to us, {Cook^s Voy. N. Hem. ii, 149,) 
that the Otaheitans torture their enemies when captured, by 
tearing out small pieces of flesh from different parts of the 
body, cutting off the nose, tearing out the eyes, &c. 

Exchanges of prisoners were never made between the In- 
dian tribes; for whenever any individuals are captured, their 
own relations as well as the nation at large, look upon them 
as dead; and were they to return after having been preserved 
from death by the mercy of the captors, they would be con- 
temned by their nearest relatives. {Carver, Travels 224.) 
It is on this account, when a prisoner has been adopted into 
a hostile tribe, that he makes no difficulty of going to war 
against his former countrymen and kindred. {Charlevoix, 
Canada 162.) 

The custom of considering the prisoners taken by an ene- 
my as being dead, prevails among certain negroes of Africa, 
and Dr. Robertson {Hist. Am. i. note 75,) says, it was a 
maxim among the Romans in the early periods of the com- 
mon weath, that a prisoner "turn decessesse videtur cum captus 

Deplorable as a captivity among the Indians may seem to 
the generality of persons, it is undoubtedly much less unhap- 
py than is generally supposed, and perhaps to the lower classes 
of society, it might be deemed even preferable to the sta- 
tion they occupied in civilized life. Occurrences of this kind 

* The Caraibs of the West India islands were cannibals, but they were cer- 
tainly of Guiana origin. 

I I do not consider the mere revengeful eating or tasting a morsel of the 
body of a slain enemy, sufficient to give a cannibal character to a people. 
Otherwise perhaps, every barbarian people of the world might come under 
this reproach. The term should be restricted to those who like the Brazil- 
ians, &c. made a feast on the human body. 


have been frequently observed in the history of the Europe- 
an settlers in America, and the following relation is very 
positive in its inference. In one of the treaties made be- 
tween the Indians and people of New England, the former 
promised to return such of the English as they held prison- 
ers, if they desired it; but they refused to compel any who 
were inclined to remain with them; and many persons both 
male and female did remain, who mingled with the Indians. 
{Hutchinson^ s Hist. Mass. ii. 104.) The same thing is re- 
corded by Golden, {Hist. Five Nations, 203,) Southey 
{Hist. Braz. iii. 391, 407,) relates, that in Brazil both men 
and women frequently prefer living with the Indians, to re- 
turning again to the society of the whites. 

Where extermination of the weaker party has not taken 
place, 01 when they have not been driven out of the reach of 
the conquerors, peace ensues, either by the submission of the 
weaker, or by the mediation of a friendly nation, but more 
commonly by the adoption of the latter, into some nation or 
tribe who are at peace with their enemy. Du Pratz {Hist. 
Louisiana, ii. 156,) says, that among the Indians of Louisi- 
ana, if a nation of two thousand warriors, violently pursue 
another nation of five hundred warriors, if these last retire 
among a nation in alliance with the two thousand, and are 
adopted by them, the pursuing party immediately discon- 
tinue the war, and reckon their recent enemies as allies. 

In concluding their treaties, there are but two circum- 
stances sufficiently characteristic to merit description. These 
are the smoking of the calumet,* and the exchanging strings 
of beads, or as they are more commonly called, belts of wam- 

The calumet, which is a Norman word signifying a reed, 
is a tobacco pipe, whose stem is about four feet in length, 
sometimes round, and at other times flat. It is painted and 
adorned with hair, porcupine quills dyed of various co- 
lours, and the most beautiful feathers that can be procured. 
The bowl of the pipe is most frequently of red marble, though 
some tribes only admit it of white stone, and if it be present- 
ed to them either of a red or black colour, will have it whi- 
tened before they smoke it. There are also various peculi- 
arities in the ornaments of the calumet, by which its particu- 
lar nationality is recognised. It is considered a sacred or 
consecrated object, and on this account is never suffered to 
touch the ground, being laid upon two forked sticks, stuck 
upright in the earth for that purpose. 

•The Calumet is smoked upon every important occasion, either in making 
a treaty, or in determining to go to war, &c. 


Among those nations who use the pipe in concluding their 
treaties, the calumet confers personal inviolability on those 
who are carrying it. They are indeed in the sacred charac- 
ter of ambassadors, and as such are protected from harm even 
among the rudest nations. 

The use of the calumet seems to have been confined to a 
certain part of North America, and chiefly to those countries 
adjacent to the Mississippi, but also well known as far as the 
shores of the Atlantic ocean. Beyond the Rocky mountains, 
it is very questionable whether it was used until recently, 
when their rare communications with the Indians on this side 
of that chain of mountains, may have made them acquainted 
with it in a partial manner. It is said, {Robertson^s Hist. 
,B.m. ii. 41,) that when Behringand Tschirikow visited the 
North West Coast, that the nations there presented them with 
the calumet; but I am inclined to consider this a mistake, 
having never read any thing among the different navigators 
of those coasts, that could imply the use of such an emblem. 
Dr. R. has most probably confounded the calumet, with a 
custom observed by Capt. Cook at Snug Corner bay, [Voy. 
N. Hem. ii. 357.) He says, that the natives who came to 
see him, "held up sticks about three feet long, with large 
feathers or wings of birds tied to them." This custom, there- 
fore, from whence soever it may have been derived, was not 
offering the calumet or pipe of peace. 

The calumet was used by the demi-civilized Natchez, and 
the Indians west of the Mississippi, as far at least as the bay 
of St. Bernard, and probably to the frontiers of Mexico. 
But neither the Mexicans, nor an}"- people to the south of 
them, appear to have used it in making their treaties. 

The Canada Indians [Charlevoix, 135,) have a tradition, 
that the use of the calumet originated with the Pawnees of 
the Missouri, who received it from the sun. This tradition, 
as far as the Pawnees are concerned, seems strengthened by 
the Mandans and Minitarees relating the same thing of that 
people. {NuttaVs Travels, 276.) Du Pratz {Hist. Loui- 
siana, I. 319,) says the calumet was used amongst the Nat- 
chez from time immemorial. 

I am not certain but that the use of the calumet is a com- 
paratively modern custom: not having found it described 
by any of the more early voyagers and travellers in America, 
such as Soto, Hudson, Herriot, and Smith, at any rate, not 
distinct enough to separate it from a simple act of hospitalit)^ 

But it is possible that the Portuguese gentleman {page 40,) 
describes the calumet, when he says, some Indians came to 
Soto "playing on a certain pipe, which serves for a signal 


that they come as friends;" though his words seem rather to 
designate a musical instrument. 

In the year 1G79, Henepin speaks of the calumet as being 
in universal use among the Indians east of the Mississippi, 
It is not improbable, however, at that time, that the French 
traders had both greatly extended its use, and confirmed its 
character of conferring personal inviolability; as such a prac- 
tice favoured their trafic into the interior parts of the coun- 

There is nothing in the eastern hemisphere analogous to 
the calumet, nor can such a conformity be expected, as the 
very use of tobacco and smoking has been derived from 

If the calumet be smoked by the hostile parties, the pre- 
liminaries in European language are settled; and they enter 
into such treaties as their situation demands, or their policy 
requires. To ratify the league, belts of wampum are given, 
whose figures and marks, are intended to remind the parties of 
the terms to which they have acceded. There are no hiero- 
glyphic figures delineated on the belt, but it is worked with 
peculiar marks and figures, which serve as a memento, that 
such a particular belt was given, when such a treaty was 
made. I know of nothing which can convey a better idea 
of the principle of the wampum belt, than by alluding to a 
rural custom which prevails in certain parts of Europe, where 
two lovers break a piece of money between them, which 
broken pieces, like wampum belts, remind the parties when 
absent, of their mutual engagements made at the time the 
coin was broken. 

The wampum strictly so called, were simply blue and 
white beads, made for the most part from the inner coat of 
the clam shell, ( Venus Mercenaria.) That bluish coloured 
part, vulgarly called the heart of the shell, furnished the 
violet or blue bead, which was the most esteemed. 

To make the wampum belt, these beads were strung on 
sinews, and sewed to a leather belt or strap in rows, and the 
colours arranged into various devices and patterns. 

The wampum was also used for ornamental purposes, and 
in this manner may have been worn by many tribes both of 
North and South America, but as employed in ratifying 
treaties, its use does not seem to have been quite as extensive 
as the calumet, unless we may consider the quippos of the 
Peruvians to be an improvement upon the practice, which is 
not altogether improbable. Under the head of Quippos, we 
shall notice some customs in the old world of analogous 
purpose, to which they bear a closer resemblance than to the 
wampum belt. 


Tliere seems to have been but little formality observed 
among the South American tribes, in concluding their trea- 
ties. Gumilla in one instance [Hist. Orinoq. ii. 91,) says, 
"they ratify {scellent) their treaties with sticks, which they 
give reciprocally." 

The Araucanians {Molina, Hist. Chili, i. 119, 249,) car- 
ry in their hands when they conclude a peace, the branches 
of a tree regarded as sacred by them, which they present to 
each other. Stevenson, {Trav. South America, W. 55, 105,) 
also takes notice of this practice among the Araucanians. It 
is I believe the only instance of an Indian tribe, using so 
natural and agreeable an emblem, in making a treaty of 

According to the plan we have laid down for investiga- 
ting the history of the Indians of America, this chapter 
should terminate, with an exposition of what they relate 
concerning their first origin, and their traditional history. 
But we cannot more than allude to this subject as it concerns 
the barbarous tribes, from the inutility, as well as the impos- 
sibility of exhibiting in any reasonable compass, so great a 
mass of strange and whimsical accounts; as incoherent in 
their particulars, as the relation of a disturbed dream. 

But though there is an almost endless variety in the tradi- 
tions they relate concerning their origin, there is one parti-' 
cular incident of their history so universally stated by them 
that it would seem improper to omit stating it. I be- 
lieve, that nearly every nation whether of North or South 
America, speak of a deluge of water that once overflowed 
the earth, destroying all mankind but some few individuals 
whom each tribe claim as their own particular progenitors. 

The ancient history of the barbarous tribes, or of their mi- 
grations, are equally confused with those they relate con- 
cerning their origin, and in no instance can be presumed to 
extend back beyond a century of years, anterior to the im- 
mediate inquiries of the Europeans. 

After a deliberate examination of their respective tradi- 
tions of emigration, which are both vague and uncertain, I 
cannot consider them as throwing the least degree of light 
upon the history of their origin. They certainly only re- 
late to the partial removals or emigrations of these people, 
from one to another part of the American continent. This 
belief is in strict conformity with every thing we know of 
their actual condition, when we first became acquainted with 
them. They were continually engaged in war with each 


other, and according as they were fortunate or unsuccessful, 
they either enlarged their country, or abandoned it to be in- 
corporated with an adjoining people; or else they in turn in- 
vaded another nation more or less distant, and dispossessed 
them of their country. 

Every change of political circumstances, therefore, altered 
the limits of an Indian territory, which would in the course 
of a single century, leave but an indistinct impression on 
their minds, as to any former country from which they may 
have emigrated. A vague idea of a previous removal, might 
be retained by their oldest people, which they might state 
to be from some particular point of the compass: but beyond 
this, they seem to have retained no precise information. 

In North America, the tribes between the Atlantic ocean 
and the Mississippi river, 1 believe universally stated, they 
had crossed that river from some westerly country, of which 
they preserved no remembrance. Of the traditionary histo- 
ry of the tribes between the Mississippi and the Rocky 
mountains, I have never seen any particular account, unless 
in the brief observation made in Long's Expedition to the 
Rocky Mountains, i. 339, which states they report they had 
in part emigrated from beyond the great lakes. 

The Indians found by the Spaniards in Mexico and Gua- 
temala, appear to have at different times proceeded from the 
north, and especially from that country west of the Rocky 
mountains. But there were also others in these regions, 
who remembered nothing of a previous emigration. 

In South America, the demi-civilized nations, seem to 
have preserved no tradition of an emigration to the coun- 
tries where they were first discovered by the Spaniards. 

The barbarous Indians living in those regions watered by 
the Orinoco, the Amazon and the La Plata rivers, like those 
of North America, lived in a state of perpetual conflict 
with each other, and were therefore under the influence of 
the same causes, which have rendered the history of the 
former so confused and uncertain. All their histories of 
emigration amount to nothing more, than removes from one 
district to another of South America. It is perhaps a sin- 
gular fact, that there appears to be no connexion between 
the history of the Indians of the two Americas. 

The inhabitants of the West India islands, there can be no 
room to doubt, came from south to north. The great na- 
tions from whom they were descended, whether Arrowacks 
or Caraibs, being yet known in South America. 



We are now entering u)Don that second division of the 
aboriginal people of America, whom in the introduction to 
our subject, we distinguished by the term of demi-civilized; 
And it happens conveniently to our plan of arrangement, 
that the people with whose institutions we are to commence, 
were not only the first in that geographical order in which 
we have hitherto examined the American population, but 
they were perhaps, in the first, or lowest stage of that im- 
perfect civilization, to which a few aboriginal nations had 
attained, previous to the voyage of Columbus. 

At the time the Spaniards discovered the southern part of 
the United States now known as Florida, Louisiana, Mis- 
sissippi, Alabama, and Georgia, there were certain nations 
inhabiting those states, who it is evident were advanced in 
their progress to civilization, beyond any of the adjoining 
Indian tribes. The narratives of the early travellers in 
these countries, meagre as they are, yet so explicitly declare 
this to have been the case with the Natchez, Tsensas, Baya- 
goulas, &c. that some modern writers have not hesitated to 
declare their accounts were exaggerations, without just foun- 
dation. Such assertions are easily made, and in this instance 
have been made, without examining the various testimonies 
given by writers of difierent nations, who have either tra- 
velled through, or settled themselves in these parts of our 
country, at an early period of Europo-American history. 

It is true, that when we became more intimately acquaint- 
ed with these people, for whom we claim a certain degree of 
demi-civilization, they were in an almost ruined state, from 
wars and other calamities, which had begun to subject their 
social institutions to decay, even before the time of Euro- 
pean discovery. We find when Soto marched through the 
country, that the Chcrokees and Chickasaws, were at that 
time bordering on, or established among them; and that a 
part of their land had been desolated by pestilence. {Po7'- 
iuguese Gentlema?i, 64.) The murderous invasion of that 
villain Spaniard, not only carried death and destruction 
wheresoever he directed his course, but in its consequences 
enabled tlieir Indian enemies around, to take advantages of 
their weakness; from which they had not recovered, when 


the French made their settlements in Louisiana. These 
last completed their ruin, by war, the communication of dis- 
eases, and the use of ardent spirits. 

It was in their last declining condition, that we became 
acquainted with the people of Louisiana, through the me- 
dium of some French travellers, who visited that country 
about the commencement of the last century. They have 
given us a tolerable account of the Natchez, a tribe in imme- 
diate contact with their colony, and whom they considered 
as the ancient head of the demi-civilized people of Louisiana. 
From the history of that tribe chiefly, in connexion with 
occasional information of other tribes, we think we have 
plausible authority to infer the general state of society in 
that part of America, denominated Florida by the first dis- 

We have been induced to retain the name of Florida as 
the title of the present chapter, from the difficulty of finding 
a common name, for the several nations of whom we shall 
speak. And as they were spread perhaps loosely, over four 
or five of our present southern states, an equal difficulty was 
felt, to distinguish their country under a common appella- 
tion. Under these circumstances of embarrassment, it has 
been thought advisable to continue the use of the name 
Florida, which was originally, though vaguely, applied by the 
Spaniards to that part of the United States lying between 
the ocean and the Appalachian mountains, and extending east 
and west, from about the Savannah river into the province 
of Texas. 

That a state of society prevailed among the people of this 
part of North America, very diflerent from that of any of 
their neighbours, is evident from the historians of Soto's 
expedition, who describe the houses of the natives to be 
like farm houses in Spain, and collected together into large 
towns. {Port. Gent. 46.) In other places they speak of 
dwellings with out houses, bake houses, granaries, &c. ; 
shewing nations no longer in the hunter state, but attached 
to the soil, and with all the corresponding effects of a life 
less erratic than that of the more barbarous tribes. That 
we may give the best view of their actual state of society, 
we shall divide our subject into different heads, more or less 
analogous to those used when treating of the barbarous or 
savage tribes. 


Of the State of Society, Arts, ^^c. among the Indians of 


The general state of society and manners among the Nat- 
chez, and other nations inliabiting Florida, only differed in 
degree from the ruder tribes adjoining, and of whom we have 
discoursed in the preceding chapter. They procured a part 
of their subsistence from hunting and fishing, but agricultu- 
ral arts were in much greater perfection, and more extensive- 
ly pursued. They did not change their residence as other 
North American tribes, and therefore their houses, domestic 
implements, and furniture, were comparatively comfortable 
in their various uses. According to the plan we have laid 
down for investigating this subject, we shall in the first place 
describe their habitations. 

"The huts of the Natchez," according to Du Pratz, {Hist. 
Louisiana, ii. 224,) ''are nearly a perfect square, none less 
than fifteen feet, and some are thirty feet square. They erect 
these huts in the following manner; they bring from the 
woods many )'Oung trees about four inches in diameter, and 
thirteen or twenty feet in length, they plant the strongest of 
these in the four corners, and the others fifteen inches from 
each other, in straight lines, for the sides of the building. 
A pole is then laid horizontally along the sides on the inside, 
and all the poles are strongly fastened to it by split canes. 
Then the four corner poles are bent inwards, till they all meet 
in the centre, where they are strongly fastened together. 
The side poles are then bent in the same manner, and bound 
down to the others. They then make a mortar of mud mix- 
ed with Spanish beard, (Tillandiausneoides) with which they 
fill up all the chinks, leaving no opening but the door. The 
mud wall they cover both outside and inside with mats made 
of split cane. (Arundo gigantea.) The roof is thatched with 
turf and straw intermixed, and over all is laid a mat of canes, 
which is fastened to the tops of the walls by creeping plants. 
These huts will last twenty years, without material repairs." 

This account is confirmed by Charlevoix. [Canada, 312.) 
Tonti [Trans. N. York Hist. Soc. ii. 235,) describes the 
Illinois Indians, adjacent to the Natchez, as having two apart- 
ments to their huts, and underneath a cellar for preserving 
their grain. 

As the natives of Florida for the most part lived under a 
despotic government, it was but natural, that their chiefs 
should be lodged in a superior manner to their subjects. Gar- 
cilazo de la Vega (Hist, de la Florida, i. 217,) gives us the 
following relation, not only interesting to our present sub- 


ject, but which throws a strong light upon the liistory of the 
numerous mounds, described by more modern travellers in 
this part of the United States. 

"The town and house of the cacique of Ossachile are sim- 
ilar to those of all other caciques in Florida; and therefore 
that I need not give a particular description of each one as 
we meet them in the country, it seems best to give one des- 
cription that will apply generally to all the capitals, and all 
the houses of the chiefs in Florida. I say, then, that the In- 
dians endeavour to place their towns upon elevated places, 
but because such situations are rare in Florida, or that they 
find a difficulty in procuring suitable materials for building, 
they raise eminences* (mounds) in this manner. They 
choose a place to which they bring a quantity of earth, which 
they elevate into a kind of platform two or three pikes in 
heighth, (eighteen to twenty-five feet,) of which tlie flat top 
is capable of holding ten or twelve, fifteen or twenty houses, 
to lodge the cacique, his family, and suite. They trace 
around the foot of this mound a square place, conformable to 
the extent of the town they intend to build, and around this 
square, the more considerable people build their dwellings. 
The commonalty, {petit peiipic) build around them in the 
same manner, and the whole population thus surround their 
chief. The mound upon which the cacique lives, has its 
sides made so steep, that it is impossible to ascend it but by 
the artificial steps or way, that is fixed alone on one side." 

The habitation of the cacique, built upon the mound, was 
larger and more commodious than the huts of his people, but 
not otherwise materially diflferent in construction. The Por- 
tuguese gentleman who accompanied Soto, (page 52,) de- 
scribes the houses of the chiefs in certain parts of the present 
state of Alabama, to have had porticos to their doors. 

Other particulars concerning the houses of the caciques, 
belong properly to their state or dignity, which we shall in 
a few pages more describe. 

The temples of these people, were in like manner often 
built upon mounds, and the whole town was then surround- 
ed with a wooden or earthen wall, sufficient to protect them 
against any Indian assault. These particulars, however, we 
shall speak of under their proper heads. 

The furniture of the houses of the Florida Indians, corres- 
ponded with their superior construction. They had an equi- 
valent for a bedstead, which was conveniently made, and 

* The elevation of mounds for such purposes, is noted by the Port. Gent. 
22, when he says, "the lord's house was near the shore, upon an eminence 
made purposely to serve for a fortress." 


which the ruder tribes cnn hardly be said to have even at- 
tempted to construct. They also had wooden seats or stools, 
which were cut both seat and legs out of one block. 

In the manufacture of earthenware, they may be consider- 
ed tolerable artists, for they made "kettles of an extraordi- 
nary size, pitchers with small mouths, gallon bottles with long 
necks, pots or pitchers for bear oil, which would hold forty 
pints." [Bu Pratz Hist. Louis, ii. 226.) 

The Portuguese gentleman, (p. 178,) describes their earth- 
enware to differ little from that made at Estremos or Mon- 
temor, in A. D. 1538, 

Their other furniture consisted of mats, baskets and boxes, 
made of split cane and other materials, ingeniously wrought 
and ornamented. 

Their tools were generally made from flints, bones, &c. 
like those of the barbarous tribes; though copper was to a 
limited degree applied to such purposes. The historians of 
Soto's invasion, {Portug. Gent. 75; Herera, Hist. Jimer. 
V. 319,) describe copper axes or hatchets, pikes with copper 
heads, clubs, staves, &c. either entirely or in part made from 

They made salt near the banks of the Arkansas river, (Du 
PratZj ii. 234,) from the water of saline springs, which they 
evaporated in earthen pans made for this purpose. In the 
account of Soto's expedition, (Por/. Gent. 133, 164,) men- 
tion is frequently made of the manufacture of salt, which they 
formed into square cakes by means of earthen moulds. 

The dress of the Florida Indians, was much the same with 
that used by the ruder tribes, whom they also resembled in 
wearing little else than the breech-cloth in warmer weather. 
In the colder seasons they wore skins prepared like chamois 
leather, buffalo robes cured with the wool or hair, &c. But 
they surpassed other Indians adjoining them, in the greater 
quantity of clothing made from wild hemp, the bark of the 
mulberry tree, and other plants with fibrous barks. Of this 
latter manufacture, Du Pratz {Hist. Louisiana, ii. 231,) 
gives us the following account: "They take the bark from 
the young mulberry shoots, and after beating it into fibres, 
bleach them by exposure to the dew. They then spin them 
about the size of pack thread, and weave them in the follow- 
ing manner; they plant two stakes in the ground about a yard 
and a half asunder, and having stretched a cord from the one 
to the other, they fasten their threads of bark double to this 
cord, and then interweave them in a curious manner into a 
cloak of about a yard square, with a wrought border round 
the edges." 


The Portuguese gentleman, (pages 52, 64, and in other 
places,) notices this kind of clothing as being common among 
them. He also reports, that "a great many mantles made of 
white, red, green and blue feathers, very convenient for the 
winter," were found in certain deserted houses they fell in 
with on their march. Du Pratz {Hist. Louisiana, ii. 230,) 
also describes these feather mantles. 

Some of their bark manufactures were made in pieces of 
considerable dimensions; Iberville {Herriof, Hist. Canada, 
i. 489,) takes notice of a sheet placed before a temple, which 
measured eleven feet in length, by eight in width. 

They decorated their dresses with porcupine quills dyed 
of various colours and plaited together, as we have observed 
was the custom among the barbarous North American tribes. 
Their other ornaments also, were for the most part similar; 
the greatest difference perhaps, was that necklaces made of 
coarse pearls, were common in Florida. 

Fans made from feathers, were used by the Natchez nobility. 

Plates of copper wrought into various shapes, were used 
for ornaments; and occasionally pieces of silver coarsely 
beaten into shape, were met with by the earlier travellers. 
{HacMuyt, Voy. iii. 269.) 

Though rather sceptical as to its truth, I have thought pro- 
per to introduce the following account from Purchas. [Pil- 
grims,\v. 1521.) In the expedition of Alvaro Nunez to 
Florida, A. D. 1533, one of the Indians gave the Spaniards 
"a thick and great bell of copper, with a visage engraven on 
it, which they said they had from their neighbours to the 
northward; wherefore we knew, that from what place soever 
it came, the art of melting and casting metals must needs be 
there. They also gave us many small plates of silver, and 
antimony made into a powder to paint with." 

I have met with no account of bells having being made by 
any of these people, and am therefore not without a suspi- 
cion, that the Spanish leader had caused it to be given out 
he had procured it among the Indians, that he might enlist 
followers for the conquest of the country. Similar artifices 
were not uncommon on such occasions. 

Du Pratz (Hist. Loiiisia?ia, ii. 110,) describes the 
Kanzas Indians, employing dogs for transporting burthens; 
they drew their loads on a kind of sledge made of two 
poles. I have not met with a more ancient account of 
this practice, but as dogs were found in great numbers in 
Florida by Soto, [Port. Gent. 55, 56, 71,) and which he 
says, the natives did not eat, it may be perhaps inferred, 
they were used for draft and hunting. 


Of the AgricuUure and Subsistence of the Florida In- 

The Natchez and other people of Florida cultivated around 
their hahitations, maize, beans of several species, the large 
sunflower, (helianthus,) pumpkins, melons, and sweet pota- 
toes. {Du Pratz, ii. 7.) 

Du Pratz {Hist. Louisiana, i. 290,) relates, that the 
Natchez sowed a species of grain which they called chou- 
prichoul upon the shores of the Mississippi river. This 
grain, which I cannot recognize by his description, is said 
to be "the same as the belle dame sauvage which grows in 
all countries." 

He also mentions another kind of grain, called JVidlo- 
gouil, which we may infer was cultivated by them; though 
he gives no other description of it, than that it is shelled 
like rice. {Hist. Louisiana, ii. 239.) It is most proba- 
bly that grain called by Stoddard, (Sketches of Louisiana, 
124,) "wild oats," of which the present Indian races there 
frequently make bread.* 

Bartram {Travels, 38,) found around the ancient monu- 
ments of Georgia and Alabama, certain fruit trees, under 
such circumstances as to justify his opinion they had been 
planted by the former population of the country. These 
trees are the persimon, {diospyi'os,) honey locust, {gledit- 
sia,) Chickasaw plum, {prunus,) mulberry, {morus^ hl&ck. 
walnut, shell bark, {juglans, &c.) 

Like the barbarous tribes around, they hunted and fished 
when an opportunity offered, and they buccaneered their 
meat to preserve it. {Du Pratz Hist. Louisiana, ii. 
240.) We have already described this process when speak- 
ing of pemican; under which name, this dried meat was 
known among the more northern nations. 

The Port. Gent, page 12, says on one occasion, that So- 
to's troops met with a pot of honey, though neither before 
nor after did they see bees or honey. 

Some of the Florida nations on the coast, are reported to 
have eaten occasionally a kind of unctuous earth. {Robert- 
son's Hist. Jim. ii. 452.) We have in page 78, given a 
short view of this practice, w^hich has been observed among 
various people of either hemisphere. 

None of the people of Florida appear to have used intox- 
icating drinks: but they made a hot tea from the leaves of 

♦Romans, {Hist. Florida, 84, 122,) at a comparatively late period says, the 
Florida Indians cultivated two varieties of that species of Panicwn called 
Guinea corn. It is very possible, these are the two species of grain to which 
Du Pratz alludes. 


the cassine, {priiius glaher,) which they poured backward? 
and forwards until it iVothed. This tea may have been 
slightly stimulant, but seems to have had no other than a 
diaphoretic or diuretic eflect. {Hackliiyt, Voy. iii. 327. 
Charlevoix, Canada, 342.) 

They smoked tobacco, and danced to the same kinds of 
musical instruments which we have described in page 90. 
But the women here were allowed to dance in circles among 
themselves, surrounded by larger circles of men. 

They also played that masculine game of ball we have 
described in page 86, and the game of chungke mentioned 
in page 87, and which perhaps had its origin among these 
people, or a kindred tribe. 

Besides these games, they had the more sedentary ones of 
the platter or dish, and of the fifty or seventy sticks; see 
page 88. 

Any other particulars of their amusements, will be found 
in our account of their religious festivals. 

Of the Government and Polity of the Florida Nations. 

What especially distinguished the people of Florida from 
the ruder tribes of North America, was the despotic go- 
vernment under which they lived; and which is very strik- 
ing to a citizen of the United States, from its contrast with 
the institutions of the bold and independent nations of the 
Delaware or Iroquois stocks. 

As previously stated, we have been obliged to compile 
our account of these people, from histories of difierent na- 
tions of this part of America, which agreeing in general 
conformity, when insulated particulars are afforded for com- 
parison, we are thereby enabled, with some plausibility, to 
infer that one general form of institution and polity, was 
common to the country. The most detailed account of their 
form of government, we learn from Du Pratz. (Hist. 
Louisiana.) In various parts of his work he informs us, 
that the nation of the Natchez was divided into nobles, and 
common people, which last by an arrogance not peculiar to 
a savage nobility, were called "Stinkards;" a phrase ex- 
pressively analogous to "swinish multitude." These com- 
mon people were to the last degree submissive to the nobi- 
lit}^, who were divided among themselves into suns, nobles, 
and men of rank. 

The SUNS were the descendants of a man and woman, 
who according to their traditions, came down from the sun, 
to teach them how to live and govern themselves. One 
part of this divine man's code, was, that his descendants 


called after their celestial ancestors, suns, should always 
be distinguished from the bulk of the people, and that none 
of them should be ever put to death upon any account what- 

The nobility of this privileged class, was also ordained to 
be transmitted by the female line; and though the children 
whether male or female, bore the name of suns, and were 
regarded as such, the males enjoyed this honour in their own 
persons alone; for their male children had only the title of 
nobles, the next generation lowered them to men of rank, 
and the third in descent became plain Stinkards. Distin- 
guished actions, especially of a military nature, might retard 
the gradual deterioration of blood; but as the "good and 
great" were only counted, the progress to the Stinkard class, 
was I presume very regular, if we may be permitted to es- 
timate it by the history of nobility in other countries. 

The case was very different, however, with the female pos- 
terity of the suns; for they continued through all genera- 
tions, to enjoy the privileges of their rank. {Du PratZj 
Hist. Louisiana^ ii. 203.) 

The reason for making rank hereditary in the female line, 
is said by Charlevoix, {Hist. Canada^ 318,) to have been 
founded in the licentious conduct of the women. The men 
said, it was impossible to say who was the father of their 
offspring, but that the children of princesses, were at any 
rate one half noble blood, be the father whom he may. 

We must observe here, though a little out of place, that 
the male and female nobility never intermarried; for as one 
of their laws which we have already noticed, prohibited 
their being put to death upon any account whatever, so they 
had another law of equal authority, which required the con- 
jugal partners of the Suns, to be put to death at the time of 
their burial. To fulfil these two celestial ordinances, they 
therefore only married Stinkards. The law was thus ren- 
dered consistent, and their privileges were undiminished. 

The history of the founder of the polity of the Natchez, is 
thus related by Du Pratz [Hist. Louisiana.^ ii. 175,) accord- 
ing to their tradition. 

"A great number of years ago, there appeared among us a 
man and his wife who came down from the sun. Not that 
we believe the sun had a wife who bore him children, or that 
these persons were their descendants. But when they first 
appeared among us, they were so bright and luminous, that 
we had no difficulty to believe that they came down from tlie 
sun. This man told us, that having seen from on high that 
we did not govern ourselves well, that we had no master, 


that each of us had presumption enough to think himself ca- 
pable of governing others, while he could not even conduct 
himself, he had thought fit to come down among us, to teach 
us to live better." 

The Natchez, with some difficulty, as is usual upon similar 
occasions, prevailed upon this disinterested man, whose name 
is unrecorded, to accept a regal sway over their nation. He 
then established that arbitrary and despotic government, by 
which they were ruled when first visited by the French 
travellers; and whose chief features were, unbounded indul- 
gence to his descendants or the nobles, and unbounded ser- 
vitude to the common people. He also regulated their reli- 
gious system; by which the Great Sun was made its head 
or chief minister, thus uniting the temporal and ecclesiastical 
power in one person. 

This divine personage gave them some very good moral 
regulations; {Du Pratz Hist. Louisiana, ii. 176,) and 
among other matters, forbid incestuous marriages, even among 
the nobility, which shews different views from Manco Capac, 
also a son of the sun, who favoured the Peruvians with a ce- 
lestial visitation. 

The nation of the Natchez consisted of numerous villages, 
each of which was governed by its own sun or chief. These 
admitted their inferiority to one great chief, who was con- 
sidered the head of the nation; and as they bore the name of 
suns, he was styled the Great Sun. He had the power of 
life and death over his subjects, and could command their 
services without making them any compensation. [Charle- 
voix Hist. Canada, 315.) Du Pratz {Hist. Louisiana, \\. 
184,) says, "the authority which their princes exercise over 
them is absolutely despotic, and can be compared to nothing 
but that of the first Ottoman emperors. Like them, the 
Great Sun is absolute master of the lives and estates of his 
subjects, which he disposes of at pleasure; his will being the 
only law, &c. But however absolute the authority of the 
Great Sun may be, and although a number of warriors and 
others attach themselves to him, to serve him, to follow him 
wherever he goes, and to hunt for him, yet he raises no sta- 
ted impositions," &c. 

The Ta;nsas, according to Tonti, {N. York Hist. Col. ii. 
272,) lived under a similar polity. "This people were en- 
tirely governed by their prince's absolute will. They recog- 
nised his children as his lawful successors, and when their 
chief died, they put his wife, steward, and twenty men of 
the nation to death to wait upon him in the other world. 
During his life no man drank out of his cup, or eat from his 
dish, or walked as he was passing by," &c. 


The retainers or domestics of the Great Sun of the Nat- 
chez, it is said [Herriot, Hist. Canada, 508,) were embo- 
died after a plan, which was established by the ancient kings 
of Egypt. {D'iod. Sic. lib. 1, chap. 4.) For as soon as his 
presumptive heir was born, every family in which there was 
a child at the breast, gave that child to his service. Out of 
the whole thus given, a certain number were chosen to serve 
the young prince; and who at competent ages received em- 
ployments suitable to their capacities. Some spent their lives 
in hunting or fishing for the service of his table, others were 
employed in cultivating the ground, and others as followers 
or personal attendants. When the chief died, all these in- 
dividuals were put to death, to serve their master in the 
world of spirits. 

The Great Sun {Charlevoix, Canada, 318,) had several 
officers acting under him in the following capacities: Two 
war chiefs, two masters of ceremonies for their temple rites, 
two officers who presided at councils, when strangers came to 
treat with the Sun; four officers who directed their national 
festivals, and some others who superintended the public 
works. All these ministers of the will of the Great Sun, 
were respected and obeyed in the same manner as if he him- 
self had given the orders in person. 

We have in a former page described the habitations of 
the Florida chiefs, and remarked that they were built upon 
artificial mounds. We shall now complete that relation, by 
describing the etiquette of their levees, as related by Herri- 
ot {Hist. Canada, 505,) concerning that of the Great Sun 
of the Natchez. "The cabin of the Great Sun contained 
several beds on the left of the entrance; on the right hand 
was the bed of the Great Sun adorned with different painted 
figures. This bed consisted only of a palliass made from 
canes and reeds, with a square piece of wood for a pillow. In 
the centre of the cabin was a small boundary, around which 
every one that entered the apartment, was obliged to perform 
the circuit, before he was permitted to approach the bed. 
Those who entered, saluted with a kind of howl, and ad- 
vanced to the extremity of the cabin, without casting their 
eyes towards the side where the Great Sun was seated. They 
afterwards gave a second salute, by lifting their arms above 
their heads, and howling three times. If they were persons 
whom the Great Sun respected, he answered by a faint sigh, 
and made them a sign to be seated; he was thanked for liis 
courtesy by a new howl, and at every question that the Sun 
made, they howled once before they returned an answer, and 
when they took leave of him, they drew out one continued 
howl until they retired from his presence." 


The state of the Taensa chiefs was very similar; {Tonti, 
N. York Hist. Coll. ii. 269,) but the furniture of theii 
tlwellings was much superior to that described above. In- 
stead of howling, their subjects made their obeisance by a 
"loud kind of humming," which they assured Tonti was 
their token of admiration and respect. 

In the account of Soto's invasion, it is mentioned several 
times, that the caciques of Florida were attended with some 
rude state. Thus the chief of Cosa {Port. Gent. 79,) who 
visited Soto, was carried in a litter upon the shoulders of his 
subjects, while attendants around him, "sung and played up- 
on instruments." On his head he wore a kind of diadem 
made of feathers. 

The cacique of Tascalusa, {Port. Gent. 85,) received the 
Spaniards, sitting on a carpet and cushions, spread on the 
ground before his habitation. His nobility were seated a 
little distance from him, and to protect him from the rays of 
the sun, one of them held an umbrella over his head, made of 
party coloured buckskin. 

In the dwelling of the cacique of Palisema on the west side 
of the Mississippi, the inner apartment was hung v,^ith buck- 
skins so well dried and wrought, {Port. Gent. 131) "that 
one would have taken them for good tapestry; the floor being 
also covered with the same." 

As we have shewn that women enjoyed certain hereditary 
dignities even among the barbarous tribes, we may readily 
believe that among the Floridans, where the noble females 
had such great privileges, they would often be at the head of 
tribes, and chiefs of villages. The Portuguese gentleman 
{pages 49, 63,) relates, that Soto met with several female 
caciques, one of whom was carried on a kind of litter by 
four men; and her canoe had an awning in the stern, with 
a carpet and cushions to sit on. 

Laudoniere {Hackluyt, iii. 339, 344) speaks of a queen, 
who was much reverenced by her subjects, when he visited 

Of the Religion of the Florida Indians. 

The Natchez believed mankind to be immortal, and that 
after death their souls went to reside in another world, where 
they were rewarded or punished, according to their conduct 
in the present life. Such as had been faithful observers of 
the laws, were to be conducted to a region of happiness 
where the most exquisite viands would be supplied them in 
abundance; that their days would pass in pleasure and tran- 


quillity, in the midst of feasts, of dances, and of women ; 
and that they should enjoy every imaginable pleasure. 

On the other hand, it was supposed that the transgressors 
of the laws, would be cast upon lands unfertile and marshy, 
which would produce no kind of grain. There they should 
be exposed naked to musquetoes, that all nations should 
make war against them, and that they never should eat but 
of the flesh of alligators, and the worst species of fish. 

The Natchez and other Indians of Louisiana recognised a 
supreme and all ruling being, who governed the universe, 
and who was called the Great Spirit. They also believed 
there was a great evil spirit, who, however, was of inferior 
power to the good spirit, and that numerous inferior or sub- 
ordinate spirits, both good and bad, were in continual opera- 
tion around them. {Du Pratz, Hist. Louisa, ii. 173, 208.) 

Like the barbarous nations, {Du Pratz, ii. 208,) they paid 
no homage to the Good Spirit, but endeavoured to propi- 
tiate the evil principle, who, according to their mythology, 
governed the seasons, and all that may hurt or benefit the 
productions of the earth. 

The sun however appears to have been the principal ob- 
ject of their veneration, for as they could imagine nothing su- 
perior to that luminary, it was supposed to be especially 
worthy of their religious homage. To its honor a perpetual 
fire was maintained in their temples. The Great Sun, who 
was considered a brother of the Sun, honoured the appear- 
ance of his elder brother every morning, as soon as he appear- 
ed above the horizon, by a repeated howling; and having had 
his pipe lighted, he offered him the three first mouthfuls of 
the smoke; then raising his hands above his head, he turned 
from east to west, in the course the sun would move during 
the day. 

It is not certain that the Natchez made any idolatrous re- 
presentations, though wooden figures of men were observed 
in their temples at the time of Soto's invasion. Garcilazo 
de la Vega, i. 429, describes certain figures placed at the en- 
trance of a temple, which seem to have represented guardians 
to the sanctuary. But as his narration is evidently grossly 
exaggerated, we shall not notice the account any further than 
as above mentioned. The fact may serve to explain the ori- 
gin of some wooden statues that have been observed among 
the Creeks, {Adair, 22,) and which in all probability were 
derived from some of the ancient Florida nations. 

Du Pratz {Hist. Louisiana, ii. 178,) relates, from the tra- 
dition of the Natchez, the following history of the institution 
of the perpetual fire, so religiously preserved by that people. 
The celebrated Incognito, that in a preceding page we in- 


formed our readers, came down from the sun to teach the 
Natchez how they should be governed; is reported to have 
told them, "that in order to preserve the excellent precepts 
he had given them, it was necessary to build a temple, into 
which it should be lawful for none but the princes or princes- 
es to enter, to speak to the spirit. That in the temple they 
should eternally preserve a fire, which he would bring down 
from the sun, from whence he himself had descended. That 
the wood with which the fire was supplied, should be pure 
wood without bark.* That eight wise men of the nation, 
under the superintendence of a chief person, should be chosen 
to guard the fire night and day, and that if any of them ne- 
glected their duties, they should be put to death," &c. 

Du Pratz also observes, that the Natchez made neither 
sacrifices, libations, nor ofierings; their whole worship con- 
sisted in preserving their eternal fire. Charlevoix {Hist. 
Canada, 319,) however says, that the first fruits of every 
thing they gather, is brought to the temple, and that no land 
was sown, until the seed had been presented there. 

The Natchez had certainly advanced very far towards hav- 
ing an order of priests; for according to Du Pratz, ii. 212, 
besides the eight guardians of the sacred fire, two of whom 
were always on the watch, there also belonged to the service 
of the temple, a master of ceremonies, who was also master 
of the mysteries, since according to them he conversed very 
familiarly with the spirit. Above all these persons was the 
Great Sun, who was at the same time chief priest, and sov- 
ereign of the nation. Yet as he says, there were no offerings, 
libations, or sacrifices made, these different persons cannot be 
considered priests. 

Like the ruder tribes, they had conjurors among them, 
{Du Pratz, Hist. Louisiana, ii. 208,) who no doubt prac- 
tised the same feats as those of the barbarous tribes. 

The temple of the Natchez, in which their perpetual fire 
was maintained, is thus described by Du Pratz. {Hist. Lou- 
isiana, ii. 221.) "The temple is about thirty feet square, 
and stands upon an artificial mound about eight feet high. 
The mound slopes insensibly from the main front which is 
northward; but on the other sides, it is somewhat steeper. 
The four cornei's of the temple consist of four posts, about 
a foot and a half in diameter, and ten feet high, made of the 
cypress tree, which is incorruptible. The side posts were 

* Perpetual fires were maintained as religious objects by the ancient Scan- 
dinavians, Greeks, Persians, &c. The last also resembled the Natchez, in 
using wood deprived of the bark; "ligna decorlica." {Ihjde de Religio. Vet. 
Pers. 19, 361.) 


of the same wood, but only about a foot square, and the 
walls of mud about nine inches thick. The inner space is 
divided from east to west, into two apartments, one of which 
is twice as large as the other. In the largest apartment, the 
eternal fire is kept; and there is likewise in this place, a 
table about four feet high, six long, and two broad. Upon 
this table lie the bones of the late Great Sun, in a coffin of 
canes, very neatly made. In the smaller apartment which 
is very dark, as it receives no light but from the door com- 
municating between the two rooms; I could meet with 
nothing but two boards, on which were placed some things 
like small toys, which I had not light enough to examine. 
The roof is in the form of a pavilion, and very neat both 
within and without; and on the top of it, are placed three 
wooden birds twice as large as a goose, with their heads 
turned to the east. Before the doors of the temples, 
throughout Louisiana, two posts are placed, formed like the 
ancient Terminii, that is, having the upper part cut into the 
shape of a man's head." 

We have abundant evidence from different travellers, to 
state, that a perpetual fire was maintained among various 
other nations of Florida; and Charlevoix, {Hist. Canada, 
323,) seems to consider, that the Maubiliens had a claim to 
some pre-eminence among them in this particular, for the 
other nations rekindled their fires at this temple, when they 
had become extinguished by accident or neglect. The na- 
tions of Florida, however, were almost entirely ruined in his 
day; for he observes that the Natchez were almost the only 
people, who kept a fire perpetually burning. 

From the preceding relation of Du Pratz, we have addi- 
tional light thrown on the history of the ancient mounds of 
this part of the United States, of which Bartram, in various 
parts of his travels, has made frequent mention. 

Of the Division of Time, Festivals, S^-c., among the In- 
dians of Florida. 

The Natchez divided the year like the ruder tribes of 
America, into moons or months; of which thirteen appear 
to have made the annual cycle. These months derived their 
names from the fruits which were then in season, or from 
the animals usually hunted at those periods. Du Pratz, 
{Hist. Louisiana, ii. 185,) says, their year commenced 
with the month of March, which we are disposed to think 
correct, as this month is really the first which manifests the 
return of spring. 

At every new moon, they celebrated a festival significant 


of the fruit or grain in season, or of the animal which it 
was usual to see or hunt at such times. But as these festi- 
vals were of simple local history, and of a nature involving 
particulars no wise interesting, we do not think it necessary 
to describe any of them but the one which was considered 
their principal feast, and which may serve to impart a gene- 
ral idea of their state of society. 

This festival was celebrated in their seventh month, called 
by them the maize moon; and consisted in their eating in 
common of new corn, [zea mays,) which had been expressly 
planted for this solemnity. This corn {Du Pratz^s History 
Louisiana, ii. 189,) is sown upon a spot of ground never 
before cultivated, and by warriors alone; who sow, weed, 
reap, and gather the crop. When the corn is nearly ripe, 
the warriors fix on a place proper for the feast; and close 
adjoining to it, they form a granary from canes, which they 
fill with the corn, and then notify the Great Sun, who ap- 
points the day for the general feast. Some days before the 
feast, they build huts for the Great Sun, and for all the 
other families round the granary; that of the Great Sun 
being raised upon a mound of earth two feet high. On the 
appointed day, the whole nation set out at sun rising from 
their village, leaving behind alone the aged and infirm, with 
a iew warriors who are to carry the Great Sun in his litter. 
About nine o'clock he leaves the village in all the insignia 
of his dignity, and is carried to the granary amid shouts of 
joy resounding on all sides, and after being carried around 
the whole place, he alights and seats himself upon a seat or 
throne prepared for him. 

Immediately after his arrival, they light a fire by rubbing 
two pieces of wood together; and when every thing is pre- 
pared for dressing the corn, the war chief, accompanied by 
the warriors belonging to each family, presents himself be- 
fore the throne and addresses the Great Sun. He then rises 
up, bows towards the four quarters of the world, and advanc- 
ing to the granary, lifts his eyes and hands to heaven and 
says; ''give us corn;" upon which the great war chief, the 
princes and princesses, and all the men, thank him by pro- 
nouncing the word hoo. The corn is then distributed to the 
women, who run with it to their huts, and dress it with the 
utmost despatch. When the corn is dressed in all the huts, 
a plate of it is put into the hands of the Great Sun, who pre- 
sents it to the four quarters of the world, and then says to 
the war chief, eat: Upon this signal, the warriors begin to 
eat in all the huts; after them the boys of whatever age, and 
last of all the women. When thev have finished their re- 


past, the warriors form themselves into two choirs before 
the huts, and sing war songs for half an hour: after which, 
they recount in succession their exploits, and the number of 
enemies they have slain. 

The solemnity for the day, is concluded with a general 
dance by torch-light; which indeed lasts all night without 
intermission; for new performers successively take the 
places of those who become fatigued. 

The next day the men amuse themselves with playing 
ball, the same game described in our account of the amuse- 
ments of the barbarous tribes: and the night is spent in 
dancing. This manner of feasting and rejoicing, continues 
as long as any of the corn remains; after which the Great 
Sun is carried back on his litter, and the whole population 
return to their village. 

The festivals thus celebrated in the village of the Great 
Sun, were celebrated in like manner in all the villages of 
the nation, which were governed by a Sitn. 

Of the Marriages of the Florida Indians. 

It is barely necessary to observe, that the marriages of the 
Natchez and other Florida Indians, were consummated with 
little or no ceremony. A man among ihem might have as 
many wives as he could support, there being no restriction 
by custom of the country. And whenever the parties be- 
came dissatisfied with each other, they separated and mar- 
ried with others of more congenial dispositions. 

The unmarried women among the Natchez, were unusually 
unchaste; {Charlevoix, Canada, 317,) but like the ruder 
tribes, when they married they lost the privilege of dispo- 
sing of their favours without the permission of their hus- 

Owing to the despotism of their government, and some 
cruel customs established among them, which we have no- 
ticed in a preceding page, the princesses, or Female Suns, 
enjoyed high and distinguished privileges in contracting 
matrimony. As they never married with men of their own 
rank, they selected a husband from among the Stinkard 
class, whom they again divorced when they pleased. But 
this, I presume, was seldom done, for the law permitted 
them to have as many gallants as they pleased. {Charle- 
voix, Canada, 318.) Against these the legal husband was 
not permitted to express the least dissatisfaction. The poor 
cornuto stood up always in the presence of his wife, was 
not permitted to eat with her, and in fact was treated as a 
menial. If he was unfaithful, his wife might have him put 


to death; and when she died, he was strangled that he might 
serve her in the world of spirits. All the advantage he de- 
rived from his marriage, was an exemption from work. 

This custom, so strange even among American savages, is 
not unknown in the island of Java. Crawturd, {Indian 
Archip. ii. 333,) says, "the daughters of Javanese princesses 
when married to subjects, assume a tone, and insist upon 
privileges, unknown to their sex in the eastern world. The 
husband in such cases frequently terms his wife mistress^ 
addresses her in language appropriated to ceremony, and 
cannot marry a second wife or keep a concubine." 

Something of the same kind is observed of the noble ne- 
groes of Congo. {Malte-Brun^ Geog. book 69.) 

Burial of the Dead. 

The Natchez disposed of their dead, for the most part, in 
a manner we described as being practised among certain of 
the barbarous tribes. They exposed the corpse on a cover- 
ed stage or elevated bier, until by putrefaction the bones 
alone remained. Ti^.e skeleton was then carried to one of 
their temples in a cane basket, and preserved there until a 
sufficient number had been collected together. They were 
then committeil to the earth in a common grave, as is the 
present custom in this country. 

When any of the Suns died, a great number of persons 
were put to death by strangling, and especially the wife or 
husband of the deceased, who we have previously remarked 
was always a Stinkard. 

This<;ustom of putting persons to death at the funerals of 
the great, was remarked in Soto's time. {Port. Gent. 159.) 

The bones of the retainers and domestics that had been thus 
strangled, after being deprived of the flesh by the process of 
putrefaction as described above, were, when dried, put in bas- 
kets, and placed in the temple together with those of the Sun 
for whose service in the future world, they had been thus 
murdered. So abject indeed were these people, that the his- 
torians of Louisiana inform us, that the miserable creatures 
who were put to death on these occasions, generally thought 
it an especial privilege, and went to the place of their execu- 
tion singing and daicing. Even women with children at 
the breast, would deliver their infants to a nurse, and die 
when their prescribed time had arrived, though their pecu- 
liar situation exempted them from this untimely death. 
{Charlevoix, Canada, 31Q', Du Prat z, Hist. Louisiana, 
ii. 214.) 


Of War and Peace, among the Florida Indians. 

Though the government of the Natchez was apparently a 
pure despotism, yet on some occasions the people exercised 
a certain power which we cannot well define. This appears 
from the fact, that the oldest and bravest warriors hold the 
council of war, at which though the Great Sun presided, 
he took no part in the debate, and the war chief who stated 
the motives for war to the council, after making his exposi- 
tion, was only a spectator of the proceedings of others, who 
decide upon the course they will pursue. 

The formalities used in declaring war or making peace, 
appear to differ very inconsider;ibly from the customs of the 
barbarous North American tribes, as already described; and 
the war itself, was carried on in the same skir-nishing man- 
ner. They scalped the slain, burned, and otherwise tortured 
their prisoners, with every aggravation of cruelty. 

Their weapons were in no respect different from those of 
the adjoining tribes. In one particular they approached the 
customs of European warfare, by making use of militar}'- 
drums. {Port. Gent. 101.) 

The calumet was in use among them, and as fully respect- 
ed as it was by the adjoining nations. Du Pratz [Hist. Lou- 
isiana, i. 319,) says, its use was of immemorial antiquity 
with the Natchez, liut I have met with no account of it in 
the histories of Soto's invasion. Henepin, A. D. 1679, 
{Jicct. of La Sailers Expedition, 74,) is the earliest writer, 
to my knowledge, who notes its use in this part of America. 

The Natchez and other nations of Florida, surrounded their 
villages with palisadoes of great size, to protect them from 
the assaults or surprisals of their enemies. 

Some of their towns were observed in the time of Soto's 
invasion, {Port. Gent. S3,) lo be protected by "great stakes 
driven deep into the ground, witli poles of the bigness of 
one's arm cross ways, both inside and out, which were fasten- 
ed with pins, to knit all the work together, and which was 
about the height of a lance." 

Other towns were much more strongly fortified, as is rela- 
ted by Herrera, {Hist. America, v. 324,) in his account of 
Soto's expedition. "The town of Mabila or Mavila, consist- 
ed of eighty houses seated in a plain, enclosed with piles 
drove down, and timbers athwart, rammed with long straw 
and earth between the hollow spaces, so that it looked like a 
wall smoothed with a trowel, and at every eight}^ paces was 
a tower,* where eight men could fight, with inany loop holes, 

* 1 presume this defensive wall n'as composed partly of palisadoes and 
partly of earthen mounds, which being elevated a little above the regular 
wall, impressed the Spaniards with the idea, that they were towers. And 
indeed they answered that purpose. 


and two gates. In the midst of the town was a large square.'^ 
Capaha, {Herrera, v. 336,) **was fortified with a ditch 
forty fathom* wide and ten deep, full of water, conveyed to 
it by a canal from the great river, being three leagues distant. 
The ditch enclosed three parts of the town; the fourth being 
secured with high and thick palisadoes. The natives retreat- 
ed from hence to a fortified island in the great river." 

That nothing may be wanting to establish these facts, to 
which we shall again recur in another chapter of our work, 
we shall add the following account from Du Pratz. {Hist. 
Louisiana, ii. 251.) "When a nation is too weak to defend 
itself in the field, they endeavour to protect themselves by a 
fort. This fort is built circularly, of two rows of large logs 
of wood ; the logs of the inner row being opposite to the join- 
ings of the logs of the outer row. These logs are about fif- 
teen feet long, five feet of which are sunk in the ground: the 
outer logs are about two feet thick, and the inner about half 
as much. At every forty paces along this wall, a circular 
tower juts out, and at the entrance of the fort, which is 
always next to the river, the two ends of the wall pass be- 
yond each other, and leave a side opening. In the middle 
of the fort, stands a tree with its branches lopt ofi" within six 
or eight inches of the trunk, and this serves for a watch tow- 
er, &c. But notwithstanding all these precautions for de- 
fence, if the besieged are but hindered from coming out to 
water, they are soon obliged to surrender." 

Du Pratz {Hist. Louisiana, i. 154, 156, 159,) mentions, 
forts built by the Natchez to protect themselves against the 
French; and one by the Chickasaws, {page 169,) to whom 
the Natchez fled after the destruction of their country. This 
was made "of trees two feet thick, placed like palisadoes, 
and their joinings lined with other posts almost as large. 
They also had formed a gallery of flat palisadoes quite round 
their fort, which were covered with earth to protect them- 
selves from the grenades." This fort withstood an attack 
of the French, and who finally raised the siege, leaving their 
dead exposed to the brutal insults of the enemy. 

Traditional History of the Natchez. 

We have hitherto spoken of the nations of Florida in gene- 
ral, as we had parts of their institutions presented to us in 
the relations of various travellers, that justified the belief, 
that they pretty closely resembled those of the Natchez. 
But in the preseat section our research is exclusively con- 

* Forty fathom must be a mistake, if the ditch is to be supposed of artificial 


lined to the latter people, for I am not aware of any account, 
that records the ancient history of any other nation of 

According to Du Pratz, {Hist. Louisiana, ii. 110,) the 
historical tradition of the Natchez was this, "before we came 
into this land, we lived yonder under the sun; (here the re- 
later pointed nearly south-west, towards Mexico,) we lived 
in a fine country where the earth is always pleasant; there 
our Sun's had their abode, and our nation maintained itself 
for a long time against the ancients of the country, who con- 
quered some of our villages in the plains, but never could 
force us from, the mountains. Our nation extended itself 
along the great water, where the large river loses itself; but 
as our enemies were become very numerous and very wick- 
ed, our Sun's sent some of their subjects, who lived near this 
river, to examine whether we could retire into the country, 
through which it flowed. The country on the east side of 
the river, being found extremely pleasant, the Great Sun, 
upon the return of those who had examined it, ordered all 
his subjects who lived in the plains, and who still defended 
themselves against the ancients of the country, to remove 
into this land; here to build a temple, and to preserve the 
eternal fire. 

"A great part of our nation accordingly settled here, where 
they lived in peace and abundance for several generations. 
The Great Sun and those who remained with him, were 
tempted to continue where they were, by the pleasantness of 
the country, which was very warm, and by the weakness of 
their enemies, who had fallen into civil dissensions, &c. 

"It was not till after many generations, that the Great 
Sun came and joined us in this country, and reported, that 
warriors of fire, who made the earth to tremble, had arrived 
in our old country, and having entered into an alliance with 
our brethren, conquered our ancient enemies, but attempting 
afterwards to make slaves of our Suns, they, rather than sub- 
mit to them, left our brethren who refused to follow them, 
and came hither attended only with their slaves." 

Their tradition according to Du Pratz {Hist. Louisa, ii. 
146,) also says, *'that their empire after their removal to 
Louisiana, in the height of their prosperity, extended from 
the river Manchac or Iberville to the Ohio;* or about four 
hundred leagues; and that they had about five hundred Suns 
or princes to rule over the nation." 

* In Du Pratz, this river is called the Wabash, which was the name by 
which the Ohio was originally distinguished; but that the Ohio is the one 
signified, see Du Pratz, i. 299, 300. 


At the time that we become acquainted with the Natchez, 
their empire was nearly destroyed, though we do not exactly 
know from what causes. Du Pratz conjectures, their ruin was 
in great measure occasioned by their bloody customs at the 
funerals of their Suns. But it is most probable, that their 
empire, as he calls it, was nothing more than a loose confede- 
racy of themselves, and some other demi-civilized people in 
this part of America; at the head of which the Natchez 
may have been, or at least, which their arrogance may have 
led them to assume. 

But the more likely cause of the destruction of this na- 
tion, is to be found in their wars with the barbarous Indians 
adjoining them, and who were at least pressing on them 
around in every direction but from that of the sea coast. 
We also know that the Spaniards, in A. D. 1543, under So- 
to, had been for two or three years ravaging the country 
with fire and sword, treating the unhappy population as 
beasts of burthen, and of whom multitudes died from exces- 
sive fatigue, hunger and ill treatment. The inevitable con- 
sequence of this ferocious invasion, was an inability to de- 
fend themselves against the ruder tribes around;* who pro- 
bably broke into their country in all directions, and smoth- 
ered the partial civilization, which anciently distinguished 
this part of the United States. 

On the arrival of the French in Louisiana, a few insulated 
portions only of the ancient Florida confederation, manifest- 
ed any superiority to the adjoining barbarians; and the set- 
tlement of a French colony there, consummated the ruin of 
these demi-civilized people. In addition to the havoc occa- 
sioned by the introduction of the small pox, and the use of 
distilled spirits, the French and their Indian allies, carried 
on bloody wars against ihem under various pretexts. Fi- 
nally, the Natchez of whom we have spoken so much in this 
chapter, were expelled their ancient country in A. D. 1730; 
a part being driven across the Mississippi, and the few oth- 
ers that remained, incorporated themselves with the Chick- 
asaws and other neighbouring Indian tribes, and the new 

*Dr. Barton, [J^ew Views, xlvii.) says, "the Creeks appear to have cross- 
ed the Mississippi about the time the Spaniards under the command of Soto 
first landed in Florida. Their tradition informs us, that when they were 
moving downwards, they received intelligence concerning certain men of a 
different colour from themselves, who had hair all over their bodies, and 
carried thunder and lightning in their hands." 

The Dr. informs us his information was derived from Mr. McGilwray, who 
I believe, was either a Creek chief, or else an interpreter to the nation, and 
■of considerable reputation at that time. 


confederacy of the Creeks or Moscogulges, arose upon their 
ruins.* {Bartram' s Travels, 465.) 

The traditional history of the Natchez, as related by Du 
Pratz, contains matter interesting to the American antiqua- 
rian in several particulars. Though we consider oral tradi- 
tion to be of little authority, we can still admit that these 
accounts were originally true, but to have been materially 
perplexed in being handed down from one generation to 
another; who having no means of ascertaining or correcting 
their chronology, frequently blend together events, that have 
been separated by an interval of many centuries. 

If we were to assume the time when the Great Sun re- 
joined that part of the Natchez, who were settled in Loui- 
siana, to have been A. D. 1540, when the Spaniards under 
Coronado, made an incursion into the northern parts of New 
Mexico in search of Cibola; we should still be unable to es- 
timate the previous time, when the nation first arrived in 
Louisiana: for their tradition dates their emigration "many 
generations" anterior to the arrival of the Gkeat Sun. This 
expression in Indian traditions, is equivalent to any un- 
known period of time. 

From the traditions reported by Du Pratz, it would seem, 
that they came originally from the northern parts of Mexi- 
co, which is not at all unlikely, as there are certain histori- 
eal facts that strengthen the supposition. 

The traditions, given by the Natchez to Du Pratz, {Hist. 
Louisiana, ii. 113,) relate, that their ancient enemies, by 
whom they had been compelled to emigrate to Louisiana, 
**lived in a great number of large and small villages, which 
were built of stone, and in which there were houses large 
enough to lodge a whole village. Their temples were built 
with great labour and art, and they made beautiful works of 
all kinds of materials." 

We have already shown, that the Natchez in this ancient 
country, lived partly in the plains and partly in the moun- 
tains adjoining these people. If we can therefore discover 
any country to the south west, or rather west of Louisiana, 
that will answer to the demi-civilized state described in the 
tradition, we may with some plausibility point out the place 
of their ancient country. And their tradition, 1 consider 
the more entitled to credit, as it is within a few years only, 

* Adair, {Hist. Jim. Inds. 267, 26T,) mentions the incorporation of some of 
the Natchez, and six or seven other reduced tribes, into the Creeic or Mus- 
kogee confederacy; to which adoptions, he refers the great power and force 
of that nation. It is from this cause no djubt, that many ancient practices 
of the demi-civilized people of Florida, may yet be observed in the institu- 
tions of the Creeks. 


that the early accounts of civilization observed in these re- 
gions by the Spaniards, have ceased to be considered gross 

In A. D. 1530, Nuno di Gusman [Purchas Pilgrims, iv. 
1559,) made an incursion of some distance into the northern 
parts of New Spain, though we cannot ascertain how far he 
went. In this expedition, he speaks of palaces of stone, 
statues of men like those of the Mexicans, a strong place of 
stone, &c. 

Herrera {Hist. America, vi. 306,) mentions, that "as far 
as the Spaniards have penetrated into the northern parts of 
New Spain, they have found the remains of large towns, 
and of the land having been well cultivated, which is entire- 
ly different from the habits of the Chechimecas, who now 
possess the country, and who are supposed to have expelled 
the nations once living here, &c. or it might be owing to 
some great famine." 

From the accounts of two Spanish monks, {Humboldt, 
Pol. Essay, ii. 206.) who travelled as missionaries, A. D. 
1773, through the countries watered by the rivers Gila, 
Yaquisila, &c. , which empty into the gulph of California, it 
appears, that the nations visited by them are yet in a demi- 
civilized state; for these fathers found the Indians near the 
Casus Grandes, to be clothed, and assembled together to 
the number of two or three thousand, in villages where they 
peaceably cultivate the soil. They also saw fields sown with 
maize, cotton, gourds, &c. 

These monks, according to Humboldt, {Pol. Essay, ii. 
215.) were also astonished to find among the Moqui, a na- 
tion living on the river Yaquisila, "a town with two great 
squares, houses of several stories, and streets well laid out, 
parallel to one another. The construction of the edifices on 
the Moqui, is the same with that of the Casas Grandes on 
the Gila." 

Though an account of the ancient ruins called by the 
Spaniards, Casas Grandes,* more especially belongs to the 
history of Mexican Antiquities; it may not be amiss at the 
present time, to give the imperfect account of them related 
in Humboldt's Pol. Essay, ii. 205. The walls are described 
as being made of clay, rammed down in a frame, &c. A 
wall intercepted by large towers, surrounds the principal 
edifice, and appears to have served to protect it. The whole 
extent of ruins occupies a space of ground of more than a 
square league. The monk who visited this place, thought 
he could trace a canal from the Gila, &c. 

* In English, Tlie large or great houses. 


The descriptions which have heen given, tend evidently 
to confirm the tradition of the Natchez related by Du Pratz; 
and justify an opinion, that they emio;rated from some part 
of the country adjacent to the mountains of New Spain, 
most probably from their western slope, where they would be 
in contact to a certain degree, with some demi-civilized peo- 
ple, whose presence in that country, seems attested both by 
ancient and modern travellers. 

But though we have carried the time of the emigration of 
the Natchez to Louisiana, back to an uncertain antiquity, 
which would allow them much time to increase, and spread 
over a considerable extent of country, and which may be in 
a manner considered attested by the ancient monuments 
which yet remain: I am still of the opinion, that other tribes 
or nations, also of a certain degree of civilization, were per- 
haps equally ancient not only in Louisiana and Florida, but 
who inhabited the shores of the Mississippi and Ohio, even 
up to Pennsylvania. This is to be inferred from the exist- 
ence of those numerous remains, which under the denomi- 
nation of fortifications, mounds, &c. are so widely distri- 
buted over those sections of our country; and which it 
would be unreasonable to suppose, were the monuments of 
but a single nation. 

We deem it most probable, that those monuments are 
the work of several tribes, who possessing that imperfect 
degree of civilization, which we have just attempted to shew 
belonged to the Natchez; and who were fully able to con- 
struct any monument hitherto discovered North of Mexico. 
These other tribes have probably been exterminated by the 
barbarian nations around thecn, or compelled to migrate else- 
where; perhaps pressed down towards Florida, where they 
were incorporated with a population of congenial disposi- 
tion.* Of these events, however, we have little information; 
they happened in that dark period of American History, 
which precedes the settlements of Europeans on our shores; 
and as related by Indian tradition, are liable to every error 
that may be induced by time, by vanity, or simple mendaci- 
ty. What little we have to say further upon this subject, 
will be detailed in our Inquiries on the Fortifications, 
Mounds, &c. of the Western Country. 

* Du Pratz mentions, (Hist Louisia. ii. 145.) that in his time, there were 
living among the Natchez, the Grigras and Thioux, two nations that nad 
been adopted by them. Of the latter, he says they were formerly one of 
the strongest nations of the country. But he does not mention them as be- 
ing remarkable in any other particular. 



The next demi-civilized people in geographical order af- 
ter the Natchez, were those of Mexico, whose interesting 
institutions conslirute the subject of the ensuing chapter. 

When the Spaniards under Cortez invaded the kingdom 
of Mexico, they found several partially civilized nations, 
established in various parts of that country, which we per- 
haps not very accurately denominate Anahuac* The Mex- 
icans, were the most eminent in political importance among 
these different nations, yet in degree of demi-civilization, 
many of these last were not their inferiors. Though this 
fact is generally admitted by the Spanish writers, who are 
our only authorities, they have said little, however, concern- 
ing any other people than the Mexicans, contenting them- 
selves with the general observation, that these different peo- 
ple professed the same religious dogmas, used the same 
hieroglyphic system, and that the same manners and institu- 
tions were common lo the country. Therefore in describing 
the Mexicans, it may be said, they described all the demi- 
civilized people of ancient Anahuac. Whether this infer- 
ence be correct or not, we have now few means of ascertain- 
ing, and in treating of these various people, we are compelled 
to follow the path laid down by the Spanish writers, and 
make the institutions of the Mexicans our text, only men- 
tioning other people incidentally, as we may have any ac- 
counts of them transmitted to us in the histories of the 
Mexican conquest. 

But though we are thus restricted to the history of the 
Mexicans, we cannot introduce the subjects of this chapter 
to the reader, without expressing much doubt as to the fact 
of this general similarity of nations. They at any rate dif- 

* Anahuac, was the name originally given to the vale of Mexico, and sig- 
nified in that language, adjacent to the waters or lakes. It has been some- 
times used as nearly synonymous with New Spain, which is incorrect; for the 
latter appellation embraces a much larger territory than Anahuac, which 
certainly did not extend beyond the 21st degree of N. Lat. Its southern 
boundary is said to have been about Lat. 14° north, which is a very inaccu- 
rate limitation; for the country is something in the shape of a quadrant of a 
circle, bending from the north to the east. We shall therefore consider it 
bounded on the south by the 94" of W. Lon., or in other words extending 
to the northern boundaries of the Provinces of Chiapa and Tabasco; and ex- 
cluding Yucatan, which politically is attached to the kingdom of Mexico. 



fered materially among themselves in languages, and forms 
of government; and we cannot but regret that the history 
and antiquities of several nstions of New Spain, have sunk 
into oblivion, leaving a name only behind, with a belief that 
they were similar in their institutions, and equal in degree 
of civilization to the Mexicans. 

The names of the different people who inhabited Anahuac, 
we shall introduce in the present page with as brief an ac- 
count of them as possible. This seems to be a necessary 
step in the outset of this chapter, that our ensuing observa- 
tions on their institutions, may be more satisfactorily un- 
derstood. Whatever discussion is connected with their 
traditional histories, we shall reserve until the conclusion of 
the chapter, when we shall be able to resume the subject to 
greater advantage, after having described as correctly as we 
are able, their peculiar institutions, manners and customs. 

The Toltecs, or Toltecas, were the most ancient nation 
of Anahuac of whom we have any particular knowledge. 
We do not say they were the first people that ever lived 
there, but they are the most ancient of those nations whose 
traditional history has readied our times. 

Before this people emigrated to Anahuac, they lived in a 
country somewhere to the north, which was called by them 
Huehuetapallan, in which Tollan, their original country, was 
situated, and from whence they derived their name Toltecotl, 
which signifies a native of Tollan. No reason is assigned 
why they left their ancient country, other than the simple 
declaration that they were banished. According to the Abbe 
Clavigero, they commenced their journey A. D. 596, but 
Humboldt {Researches, ii. 249,) says A. D. 544. During 
their emigrating march, they stopped at various places as it 
best suited their convenience. Sometimes they tarried for 
a few months or days, and at other times for several years; 
when they erected houses, and cultivated lands, raising such 
things as were necessary for their subsistence or comfort. 
In this slow yet gradual manner, for it appears they constant- 
ly progressed southwardly, they arrived in Anahuac, one 
hundred and four years after they first commenced their emi- 
gration. Here they built a town, called ToUantzinco, where 
they remained about twenty years, when they finally re- 
moved about forty miles westward, and founded the city of 
Tollan or Tula; so called after the name of their ancient 
country. This city became the capital of their new coun- 
try, and the court of their kings. 

Their kingdom in Anahuac, was founded A. D. 607; and 
lasted three hundred and eighty -four years. During this pe- 


riod but eight monarchs reigned over ihem, vvliich gives an 
extraordinary length to each reign, if we were to understand 
it literally: but it is explained by a singular law of that peo- 
ple, svhich required that their kings should reign neither 
more nor less than a Toltecan age, which was fifty-two years. 
If the king outlived that period of time, he then resigned, 
and another was enthroned in his stead: but if he died be- 
fore the expiration of the cycle, the nobility assumed the 
government, and ruled over the kingdom in the name of the 
deceased monarch, for the remaining years of the cycle. In 
one instance mentioned by Clavigero, the nobles thus ruled 
the land for forty-seven years, the sovereign, who was a 
queen, having died in the filth year of her reign. 

The Toltecas were the most celebrated of all the nations 
of Anahuac, for their general civilization, and particular 
skill in mechanical arts. They appear from the earliest tra- 
dition to have lived always in cities, under the government 
of kings with regular forms of law; and had from all ac- 
counts, less of a martial character than the neighbouring 
tribes. The several nations that succeeded them in the oc- 
cupancy of Anahuac, acknowledged themselves indebted to 
the Toltecs for their knowledge of agriculture, and the in- 
dustrious arts. This people possessed the art of casting 
gold, silver, and copper, into such forms as pleased them; 
and they had the skill to cut gems, and precious stones, into 
various ornamental figures. But what chiefly establishes 
their claim to civilization, was that ingenious, but somewhat 
complex astronomic arrangement of time, which prevailed 
among them, and was adopted by all the demi-civilized na- 
tions of Anahuac. Of this system we shall discourse at 
length in the proper place. 

During the four centuries that the Toltecan monarchy 
lasted, they multiplied considerably, and extended their do- 
minions in various directions, building numerous and large 
cities. But at last a succession of years of famine, and des- 
olating pestilence,* put an end to their monarchy and king- 
dom about the year A. D. 1051. [Humboldt^ Res. ii. 251.) 
The greater part of those that escaped death from plague or 
famine, fled their country, and went to Yucatan, Guatemala, 
&c., leaving but a small remnant of their population in Tula, 
Cholula, and certain parts of their once flourishing kingdom. 

For about one hundred years after the destruction of the 

* This pestilence is supposed to have been the malzlazahuatl, a disease 
which bears some resemblance to the yellow fever. It is said, however, to 
attack the Indian^ alone, who are exempted from sufifering by yellow fever. 
(Htimboldt, Pol. Essay, i. 88.) 


Toltecati monarchy, the land of Anahuac remained nearly- 
depopulated; when a nation emigrating from the north under 
the name of Chechimecas, took possession of the unoccupied 

The Chechimecas, like the Toltecas, came from some coun- 
try to the north of Mexico, which they called Amaquemecan, 
where, according to their traditions, they had lived many 
years, under a monarchical government. Clavigero says, 
they obeyed the orders of their sovereigns with as much sub 
mission as is observed in the most civilized nations of 
Europe. They had distinctions of nobility established among 
them, and the plebians treated with great respect those whom 
birth, merit, or princely favour, had raised above the ordina- 
ry classes. They dwelt in communities or villages compos- 
ed of huts, but practised none of the arts that belong to civil- 
ized life. 

Their religion consisted of the simple worship of the Sun, 
to which they offered the herbs and flowers, that grew spon- 
taneously in the fields.* 

The motives by which the)'^ were influenced to leave the 
kingdom of Amaquemecan, is partially explained by the fol- 
lowing tradition, related by themselves. The last king they 
obeyed in that country, on his demise had divided the go- 
vernment between his two sons, one of whom, either not 
brooking the division of the regal authority, or perceiving 
that the mountains of the kingdom were not suflicient to sup- 
port the population, determined on seeking a better country; 
in which resolution he was supported by a large part of the 
nation. In eighteen months after their departure, they ar- 
rived at Tula, in Anahuac, the ancient capital of the Tolte- 
cas, and after some inconsiderable removals, they finally took 
possession of the country; according to Humboldt> {Research. 
ii. 251,) about A. D. 1170. They intermarried with such 
of the Toltecas as were found in the country; and by these 
connexions, received the knowledge, arts, and civilized ha- 
bits, that anciently distinguished that people. 

Eight years after the Chechimecas had been established in 
the country, there arrived in Anahuac, a considerable body 
of persons under the command of six chiefs or leaders. These 
people were the Nahuatlacks, consisting of six tribes at the 
time of their arrival. The Mexicans who were a seventh 
tiibe of this people, had parted company from them a short 
time previously. As there are circumstances connected 

*This brief description of the Chechimecas, accords almost precisely 
with the character given of the Natchez by Du Pratz. The apparent anal- 
ogy is worth remembering, as we shall again allude to the fact. 


with their history, that to be sufBcientI}' comprehended re- 
quire a little anticipation, we shall for the present suspend 
our description of these people, until we can dispose of an- 
other body of strangers, who emigrated to Anahuac after the 
Nahuatlacks. These were the Acolhuans, who report them- 
selves to have come from a country called Teoacolhua- 
can, neighbouring to the kingdom of Amaquemecan, from 
whence the Chechimecas had emigrated. The Acolhuans, 
are represented to have been the most civilized of all the na- 
tions of Anahuac, since the times of the Toltecas. 

A very close union took place between them and the Che- 
chimecas, which finally resulted in their adopting the Acol- 
huan name, as their national appellation. The name of Che- 
chimeca, was retained only by the ruder and more barbarous 
part of the nation, who preferred living in the mountains and 
forests as hunters, rather than submit to the toils of agricul- 
ture. This part of the nation afterwards mingled with the 
savage Otomies, and are distinguished by the Spanish histo- 
rians under the term of barbarous Chechimecas. 

The government of the Acolhuan monarchy lasted many 
years, and extended at one time over the whole land of An- 
ahuac. But it had been gradually broken down, by the rise 
of other states and governments previous to A. D. 1521, 
when it was entirely destroyed by the Spaniards, who ac- 
complished the ruin of it, and all other ancient governments 
of the country, by the invasion of Cortez; a hero "damned 
to everlasting fame." 

The nations of Anahuac most celebrated in history, were 
the Nahuatlacks, whose arrival we have just stated, was pre- 
vious to that of the Acolhuas, They consisted of seven tribes, 
who were respectively called Sochimilcas, Chalchese, Tapa- 
necas, Colhuas, TIahuicas, TIascalans, and the Mexicans or 
Aztecs. By ancient tradition, they are reported to have 
proceeded from seven caves in the mountains of the north. 
{Jicosta Nat. and Mor. Hist. 499 ) But however this may 
have been, we may more readily believe they were original- 
ly of the same country, as they spoke the same language. It 
may also be well to observe, that the names by which these 
tribes were distinguished, were assumed by them from local 
considerations, after they had settled in the land of Anahuac. 

Of these tribes, the traditions of the Mexicans alone have 
reached our time; and these are both vague and unsatisfac- 
tory. It is related by them, that their ancient country was 
called Aztlan, and that while living there, one of the most 
influential persons in the nation, from some unassigned motive, 
used his best endeavours, to persuade the nation to change 


their country. While this subject was under the considera- 
tion of their council, a bird near them, constantly sung cer- 
tain notes resembling the Mexican word tihui, which signi- 
fies let us go. Taking this circumstance as an omen, the 
chief orator addressed the people with such effect, that they 
abandoned their country, and commenced their march south- 
wardly about A. D. 1160; but according to Humboldt, (^e- 
search, ii. 69,) A. D. 103S or 1064. The first place in their 
journey at which they halted, wason the banks of the river Gila 
of the gulph of California. Here they remained for some 
time, and erected those buildings known to the Spaniards as 
the Casas grandes; which continue to the present day. 
Their next stopping place was at Culiacan, on the gulf of 
California, where they remained three years. Here the Mex- 
icans made a wooden statue of their god Huitzilopochtli, 
which they transported on a chair or litter with them where- 
soever they removed.* 

From Culiacan, they marched to Chicomozto, a position 
not exactly known, but supposed to be about twenty miles 
south of the city of Zacatecas, where are still some remains 
of an "immense edifice," {Clavigero^ Hist. Mex. i. 153,) 
which according to the tradition of the ancient inhabitants of 
that country, was the work of the Nahuatlacks. 

At this place, probably from some disagreement among 
them, six of the tribes moved off, leaving the Mexicans be- 
hind with the idol they had made. The six tribes advanced 
on to Anahuac, and made independent settlements in the 
country, a few years prior to the arrival of the Acolhuas, as 
we have already mentioned. The Mexicans or Aztecks, 
took a circuitous route, and after stopping at various places 
for several years, they finally settled on some marshy islands 
in lake Tezcuco; being directed by ancient prophecy to fix 
themselves in that place, where they should find an eagle 
seated on a prickly pear, (cactus)t growing out of a stone. 
This portentous appearance was happily observed at these 
islands, about one hundred years after their arrival in Ana- 
huac. Here they commenced about A. D. 1325, {Hum- 
boldt, Res. ii. 252,) building a city at first called Tenochtit- 
lan, afterwards Mexico, f 

We shall not relate the political history of the Mexicans; 

* Acosta {^Kal. and Mor- Hist. 504,) say?, this image was carried by the 
Mexicans from the commencement of their journey; supported by four priests, 
who appear to have conducted the march by oracular communications. 

t Most probably the Cactus sylvestris 

I Tenochtiflan signifies, place where the prickly pear groios out of a stone. 
(Clavigero, Hist. Mex i. 359.) The etymology of Mexico, is place of Mextli; 
a synonime of Huitzilopoctli, their god of war. iClavis- i. 62.) 


this being a matter foreign to our undertaking: but it may 
not be amiss to state generally, that after they arrived in An- 
ahuac, until they commenced building the city of Mexico, a 
period of about one hundred years, they lived in the most 
abject state, enduring all kinds of privations, and finally loss 
of their independence, being made subject to the authority of 
the Acolhuan kings. However, they ultimately emancipated 
themselves by force, and gradually arose to such power, that 
when Cortez invaded Anahuac, the greater part of the coun- 
try acknowledged their dominion. 

It is believed, that the Toltecas, Chechimecas, Acolhuas, 
and the Nahautlacs all spoke the same language. {Clavig. 
Hist. Mex. i. 144; Humboldt, Res. i. 81.) 

Such are the brief accounts of some of those nations, who 
were established in Anahuac at the time of the Spanish con- 
quest. But besides them, there were others in the country, 
of the time of whose emigrations we have no tradition; but 
which it is most probable, were anterior to that of the Tol- 
tecas. Of these people, the Miztecas, and Zapotecas, were 
both civilized and industrious. They lived under regular 
governments, exercised the same arts as the Mexicans, com- 
puted time in the same manner, and perpetuated the memory 
of events by the same pictured representations. Humboldt 
{Researches, i. 129,) considers the Zapotec nations, to have 
been superior to the Mexicans in civilization; and that it is 
possible were more ancient than the Toltecas. [Researches^ 
ii. 249, notes.) 

The Tarascas who inhabited Michuacan, lived in many 
cities and villages according to Clavigero; and seem to have 
been partially civilized: Humboldt thinks they were in 
Anahuac previous to the coming of the Toltecas. 

The Olmecas, and Xicalancas, were also considered to be 
of the same remote antiquity in Anahuac. I can say noth- 
ing, however, of their degree of civilization. Siguenza says 
they built the pyramids of Teotihuacan. 

The Otomies, who were a barbarous and numerous race of 
savages in the northern parts of New Spain, were consid- 
ered the most ancient people of the country. We shall pass 
them over with the other barbarous tribes, as not being con- 
nected with the present subject of this chapter; as well as 
the enumeration of other tribes of Anahuac, of whom we 
know nothing but the name. 

Of the Forms of Government established in Mexico, Sj-c. 

The principal governments established in Anahuac at the 
time of the Spanish conquest, were the kingdoms of Mexico. 


Acolhuacan, TIacopan, Michuacan, and the republics of 
Tlascala, Cholula, and Huexotzinco. 

Of these republics we know little either as respects their 
form or administration. They appear, however, to have been 
rather aristocracies, established on the ruins of a monarchy; 
for Clavigero {Hist, of Mexico, i. 146,) remarks in his 
brief notice of Tlascala: "at first they obeyed one chief, 
but afterwards when their population was considerably in- 
creased, the city was divided into four parts, each of which 
was governed by a chief or lord, to whom all other places 
dependent on such division were likewise subject; so that 
the whole state was composed of four small monarchies. 
These four chiefs, together with the nobles of the first rank, 
formed a kind of aristocracy, which ruled the general affairs 
of the nation, made war or peace, and appointed military 

Whether these chiefs or lords were hereditary in their 
dignities, Clavigero does not say; but I presume they main- 
tained the system followed every where else in America, 
even among the most barbarous tribes. 

We are entirely unacquainted with the political constitu- 
tion of the other two republics; or in fact of any other par- 
ticular, than that the Spaniards classed them as such. 

The monarchical governments of Anahuac, seem to have 
been coeval with the settlement of the country by the 
Toltecs. We have already mentioned the curious peculi- 
arity of their law requiring the kingdom to be administered 
in the name of each monarch for fifty-two years; and we see 
by the instance there cited, that females could inherit the 

The Acolhuacan monarchy, arose from the union of the 
Chechimecas and Acolhuas, as mentioned in a preceding 
page, and which form of government we presume was their 
ancient political constitution; for when they arrived in Ana- 
huac, they are said to have been led by princes. What fea- 
tures of their government may have been derived from the 
Toltecas, we know not; but tlie succession to their throne 
was regulated according to the rank of the mother or queen 
who bore a son; i. e. the son of the noblest woman succeded 
to the throne. 

We are ignorant whether there were any peculiarities in 
the governments of the other nations of Anahuac, excepting 
those of the Aztecs or Mexicans. 

The Mexicans, until A. D. 1352, lived under an aristocrati- 
cal form of government, which was administered by persons 
the most eminent in the nation for nobility and wisdom. 


Of these there were twenty in number, at the time they 
laid the foundations of the city of Mexico. From various 
political considerations, and from the example of surround- 
ing nations, about twenty-seven years after that time, they 
determined on having a king. Their choice elected, or 
rather called to the throne, Acamapitzin, who was considered 
one of the most prudent and deserving persons in the na- 
tion. Just before his death, he surrendered his dignity into 
the hands of the chief people of Mexico, advising them to 
choose as his successor the person most capable of serving 
them, at that time both poor and in subjection to the Tepa- 
necas. An interregnum of four months followed this event, 
a circumstance which never took place afterwards; for the 
electors in future made their selection, a few days after the 
death of the preceding monarch. 

These electors, which is a singular feature in a semi-bar- 
barous government,* were chosen by the nobility on the 
accession of every monarch, to serve for the next imperial 
election. They were four in number, though at a later period, 
the kings of Acolhuacan and Tacuba were made honorary 
electors; these had no vote, though they appear to have 
had the power of ratifying the choice of the other four 
electors. They do not seem to have been ever present at 
the time of election. 

The Mexican king was not succeeded by his son, but by 
his brother; we presume upon the same principle that seems 
to have prevailed throughout America, of tracing their de- 
scents by the female line. In default of brothers, one of 
the nephews of the late monarch was selected, or in failure 
of this kindred, one of his cousins; thus restricting the 
electors to choose out of certain branches of one family, accor- 
ding to a prescribed law, but leaving them to select the indi- 
vidual. {Clavigero, Hist. Mexico, n. 126.) This method 
of electing kings, prevailed until the Spanish conquest. 

In the latter reigns of the Mexican kings, they lived in 
great state and pomp, attended by numerous servants, who 
served them upon gold and silver plate with great varieties 
of food. They maintained a numerous harem; and when 
they went abroad, were carried on the shoulders of their 
nobility in an ornamented litter, and cloths were spread be- 
fore them when they condescended to walk on the ground. 

* The system of choosing kings by a body of electors, has been practised 
by a much more barbarous people than the Mexicans. The Goa Macassars, 
(Crawjurd, Ind. Jlrchip. iii. 14,) choose their king and his ministers by a body 
of ten electors. We are not told, however, who appoints these electors. 

The Muyscas, an American people in Colombia, appointed their great pon- 
tifif by four electors, (Humboldt, Res. ii. 108,) who were civil chiefs. 


The palace was composed of a great number of spacious, 
but low houses, in which the whole court for the most part 
resided. Connected with the imperial residence of Monte- 
zuma, were extensive gardens, with menageries for beasts 
and bii'ds, and ponds for fishes. He had also made a collec- 
tion of odd and singular looking men. There were also 
military arsenals, and magazines of clothes and provisions, 
baths, &c., connected with the palace. {Clavigero, Hist. 
Mexico, i. 283.) 

The Mexican crown was something like a small mitre,* 
one point of which stood up in front, and the other fell 
back over the neck. It was made of gold, silver, or some 
other rich material. 

The kings of Mexico and Acolhuacan, had three supreme 
councils, composed of the chief nobility, in which were de- 
liberated the general affairs of the kingdom, the revenues of 
the king, and matters relating to peace and war; and in 
general, the king resolved upon no measures of importance, 
without consulting these counsellors. {Clavigero, Hist. 
Mexico, ii. 132.) 

The Mexican nation was divided into four castes, viz. 
nobles, priests, soldiers, and common people; and like the 
ancient Egyptians, Celts, Hindus, &c., the sons followed 
the occupations of their fathers. Even the magistracy was 
hereditary, {Clavigero, Hist. Mexico, ii. 125.) 

The Mexican nobility were divided into several classes, 
each of which was distinguished by particular badges or in- 
signia. These privileged classes, alone wore gold and gems 
upon their clothes; and to them belonged all the high offices 
of the court, the magistracy, and the principal commands in 
the army. 

Nobility was hereditary from father to son, differing in 
this respect from the law of regal succession: in default of 
sons, the brothers of the deceased inherited. 

Even among the poorest Mexican Indians of the present 
day, every inheritance descends to the eldest son. 

It is supposed, that the laws of the Mexicans were at first 
enacted by the nobility; in later times this was a part of the 
royal prerogative, and their laws were consequently often 
capricious and despotic. Their laws were exhibited to the 
people as far as practicable, by hieroglyphic paintings, and 
were enforced by officers appointed by the king. 

Among the Mexicans, there were several different tribu- 
nals for the administration of justice. Their principal court, 

• "The crown of the king of Lancerota, (one of the Canary islands,) was 
like a bishop's mitre J' (Glass, Hist, of Canaries, p. 8.) 


called Tlacatecall, consisted of five judges, who sat daily in 
a public place appointed for this purpose. In civil cases 
their decision was final; but in criminal offences, an appeal 
might be made to an officer called Cihuacoatl, who decided 
ultimately on the case; unless it was of so perplexed a na- 
ture, that he could not determine its equity. If this em- 
barrassment was acknowledged, the case was discussed be- 
fore the king, in an assembly of all the judges, that was re- 
gularly held every eighty days. {Clavigero, Hist. MexicOj 
ii. 147.) 

The Cihuacoatl appointed the inferior judges; and so 
great was the respect paid him, that if any person made use 
of his ensigns of office, he was put to death, being the same 
punishment assigned to the offence of assuming the regal dis- 
tinctions of the monarch. 

Good order was maintained among the people, by appoint- 
ing certain officers called Centectlapixque, to observe the 
conduct of a certain number of persons put under their charge, 
and who were obliged to report to the proper authorities, 
every offence with which they became acquainted. 

In the kingdom of Acolhuacan, the judicial power was di- 
vided among seven principal cities, and the judges remained 
in their tribunals from sun rise to sun set. Their meals were 
brought to them in the court; and that they might not be 
taken off from their employment to provide for their families, 
nor have any excuse for being corrupted, they had agreeably 
to an usage which also prevailed in Mexico, possessions and 
labourers assigned to them for support. 

The punishments for crimes were depicted in their paint- 
ings, and as laws forbidding immorality, they were no indif- 
ferent code; but in many instances they were cruel and un- 
necessarily severe. The laws of Acolhuacan, were more se- 
vere in their penalties than those of Mexico. But as this 
subject does not properly belong to our discussions, we must 
refer the reader who may be curious on this subject, to the 
Abbe Clavigero's history of Mexico. 

The lands of the Mexican empire, were divided into those 
of the king, nobility, temples, and communities; and their 
paintings distinctly represented each of these different kinds 
of property. 

The nobility might alienate their possessions to each other, 
but not to plebians, and provided the king had not express- 
ly forbidden the transfer. Something like fiefs, though few 
in number, were recognized in their government; but the 
investiture was repeated every year, and the vassals were not 
exempted from paying tribute to the crown, as was required 
of all other plebians. 


The lands that belonged to the communities of cities, or 
villages, could not be alienated in any manner whatever. 

The contributions or taxes of the Mexican subjects were 
excessive, and consisted of a vast variety of articles, such as 
maize, ornamental feathers, dresses of cotton, skins of beasts, 
living birds, cocoa, plates of gold, cochineal, emeralds, tur- 
quoise stones, amber, gum elastic, copal, and other gums, lime 
and building materials, military weapons, cigars, honey, 
paints, ochres, copper axes, sheets of paper, mats, chairs or 
stools, vases, and finally their personal service, whether in 
peace or war, when required. {Clavigero, Hist. Mex. ii. 

The merchants also gave a part of their merchandise, and 
artists a portion of their works to the king. 

The greatest rigour was employed in collecting these op- 
pressive taxes, and if any one failed to jjay the prescribed tri- 
bute, he was sold for a slave. 

Slavery existed among the Mexicans under the following 
circumstances: captives made in war, as a punishment for 
crime or debt, or when individuals sold themselves in times 
of famine or other national calamities; but more righteous 
than Europo-American institutions, their children did not 
suffer from the crimes or misfortunes of their parents; for 
they were free. 

It is not a little surprising, that their laws gave freedom 
to a slave that fled for refuge to the royal palace. {Clavig. 
Hist. Mex. ii. 155.) 

As a part of the political establishment of the empire, we 
must mention, that along the public roads little huts were 
erected at about six miles apart, at which certain persons 
were stationed, who had been trained to running. They act- 
ed as messengers or couriers of the king, to and from the 
different parts of the kingdom. As soon as one of these per- 
sons had received a message, he ran as swift as possible to 
the next hut or stage, and communicated his order to the one 
there stationed, who immediately ran off to the stage next to 
him, &c. It is affirmed by the Spaniards, that information 
was forwarded in this manner near three hundred miles a day. 

By these messengers, fresh fish were daily brought to 
Mexico for the use of Montezuma, from the gulf of Mexico, 
a distance of two hundred miles. 

Of the Dwellings of the Mexicans. 

The houses of the poorer class of people were built from 
reeds, unburned brick, or stone and mud. Their roofs were 
covered either with a thatch of grass, or with the leaves of 


the aloe, laid in such a manner over one another, as to ex- 
clude the rain, and frequently a living tree formed one of the 
four corners of the house, by which a shade was thrown over 
the building. These cabins generally consisted of but one 
room, but if the family were not very poor, they had a second 
apartment, and an ajauhcalli or chapel, a temazcalli or va- 
pour bath, and a little granary. 

Bernal Dias {Hist. Conq. Mex. 95,) observes, that in a 
certain part of the Tlascalan territories, where the country 
was thickly settled, that numbers of the people lived in sub- 
terraneous dwellings. 

The houses of the nobility, and of persons in good circum- 
stances, were built of stone and lime. They consisted of two 
stories, having halls, chambers, &c., and large court yards, 
often paved and chequered with coloured stones. The roofs 
were flat and terraced, and the walls so whitened, that the 
Spaniards when they first saw them, describe them as shining 
like silver. 

They had no doors to their houses, but a curtain was hung 
before the entrance to prevent any inquisitive examination. 

They had made considerable advances in the principles of 
correct architecture, for they not only built with solidity, 
but they knew how to construct arches and vaults, as appears 
from their vapour baths, the remains of the royal palaces of 
Tezcuco, and from their ancient paintings. [Clavig. Hist. 
Mex. iii. 315.) 

They also cut square and round pillars from stone; but 
which appear to have been without base or capital. Cor- 
nishes, and other architectural ornaments were in use; and 
sometimes a laboured work in stone was fixed round the door 
of the houses of great men, resembling a snare or trap, and 
sometimes a serpent's head and throat. 

Among the more ancient remains of Toltecan and Zapo- 
tec architecture, we must note the monument of Xochicalco, 
and the ruins of Mitla described by Humboldt. {Research, 
i. 108, ii. 153; Pol. Essay, ii. 45, 155.) These we are un- 
able to describe without plates, which are too expensive for 
our publication. 

The temples of the Mexicans, though very different in con- 
struction to those of ancient Greece or Rome, were built with 
some regard to taste and magnificence. These we shall par- 
ticularly describe under the head of religion. 

They also made aqueducts of stone cemented with lime, 
which in some instances extended two miles, the ruins of 
which were to be seen but a few years ago. 

Cortez, in his letters to Charles 5th, {Humboldt^ Pol. 


Essay, ii. 31,) states, that water was brought to Mexico from 
the spring of Amilco, "in pipes made of burnt clay." 

Of the Agriculture of the Mexicans. 

The Mexicans, Acolhuans, and other nations of Anahuac, 
as well as the more ancient Toltecas, derived a great part of 
their subsistence from the cultivation of the field and garden. 

The several kinds of implements with which they per- 
formed their agricultural labours, were both of wood and 
copper; but they have sunk into oblivion without having 
been described. 

Their fields were irrigated by artificial canals from reser- 
voirs or dams of water, which they had providently collect- 
ed for that purpose. 

Their fields were surrounded with enclosures of stone, or 
with hedges of the aloe, which make an excellent fence. 

The plants principally cultivated by the Mexicans, were 
maize, {zea) bananas, (musa) cacao, (theobroma) beans 
{phaseohcs) of various kinds, sweet potatoes, (convolvulus) 
the sweet species of jucca or cassava, (Jatropa) tomatoes^ 
(solanum) leeks and onions, peppers, (capsicum) cotton^ 
tobacco, the magney or aloe, (agave) and various other 
plants, not known out of the kingdom. 

In the work of the field the men bore an equal part with 
the women, a circumstance which remarkably distinguishes 
them from the barbarous nations. 

Nor was their labour confined to articles of nutriment 
alone; flowers were cultivated in great quantities for offer- 
ings to their deities, as presents to great men, and for gene- 
ral ornamental purposes. 

Nothing can establish the agricultural character of the 
Mexicans better than the descriptions of their gardens, 
which are mentioned by the earlier Spanish writers with 
great admiration. The floating gardens, so generally known 
in Mexican history, were called chinampas, and were con- 
structed in the following manner. Having made a large and 
entangled frame-work of plaited willows and such like plants, 
they laid on it a sufficient quantity of earth and mud, in which 
they planted every thing suitable to such an exposure. The 
frame work was sufficiently buoyant to float the whole mass, 
with about a foot of elevation above the surface of the lake. 
For the most part they were of a regular figure, but much 
longer than they were broad, and were towed about whi- 
thersoever the proprietor chose. 

Their gardens on the main land, especially those of their 
kings, were even magnificent, and would have been consi- 


dered such in any kingdom of Europe; as the following de- 
scription, I presume, will satisfy the reader of the fact: 
*'The garden of Iztapalapan, was laid out in four squares, 
and planted with every variety of trees, through which 
were a number of avenues and paths. Several canals of water 
passed through it, upon one of which boats could enter from 
the lake. In the centre of the garden was a fish pond, the 
circumference of which measured sixteen hundred paces. 

The garden of Huaxtepec was more extensive; for it mea- 
sured six miles in circumference, and was laid out and adorn- 
ed with great taste and skill. These descriptions are attested 
by Cortez, Bernal Dias, and Hernandes. {Clavigero, Hist. 
Mex. ii. 181.) 

Of the t/Himent, and Domestic Manners of the Mexicans. 

It would be useless, if not impossible, to describe the va- 
rious articles of food consumed by the Mexicans, and other 
demi-civilized people of Anahuac. They not only used the 
flesh of various animals caught by hunting and fishing, but 
they bred for subsistence, turkeys, quails, geese, ducks, deer, 
rabbits, fish, and a variety of other animals, that are not 
known out of the country; as the pecary {sus tajassu) 
and the techichis, a quadruped like a dog, &c. 

The articles of vegetable food used by them, we have al- 
ready enumerated under the head of agriculture. 

They made syrups and sugar from maize stalks and the 
maguey plant, which is mentioned by Cortez, as being sold 
in their markets. {Humboldt, Pol. Essay, ii. 315.) 

They used salt with their meats, which was manufactured 
from saline waters near Mexico. [Humboldt, Pol. Essay. 
ii. 64.) 

They eat off a mat laid on the ground, using no table; but 
they had low seats or stools, as a part of the furniture of 
their houses. They drank several kinds of fermented li- 
quors, drawn from the maguey, palm, and maize. The best 
as well as the most common drink, was that drawn from the 
maguey or aloe, and called by them octli; by the Spaniards, 
pulque. From a single aloe, six hundred pounds of juice is 
generally drawn in the space of six months. This liquid af- 
ter fermenting, which is assisted by the infusion of other 
plants, acquires intoxicating qualities, though not as great as 
that of wine. 

They were, however, restrained in their use of pulque, un- 
der the government of their national kings; for drunkenness 
was punished in young persons with death, and in those of 
advanced life, by severe penalties. But persons of seventy 


years and upwards, might get drunk whenever they pleased. 
[Clavig. Hist. Mex. ii. 153.) 

They took snufl^, and smoaked tobacco mixed with aromatic 
leaves or gums, either in a pipe or enclosed in a hollow 

The most common amusement of the Mexicans was a 
game of ball, whose chief features may be observed, I believe, 
among every nation of America, (see page 86.) The ball 
itself, was made of gum catchouc, and was struck by any 
part of the arm or leg, except the hand and foot; which must 
have required great dexterity. But we do not deem it ne- 
cessary to further describe the peculiarities of the game. 

They were exceedingly dexterous in feats of activity ; which 
though too uninteresting to merit description, filled the first 
Spaniards with so much astonishment, that they believed 
they were aided by supernatural means. 

They also had their sedentary games, one of which was 
played in the following manner. A square was drawn upon 
a mat, within which were two diagonal, and two cross lines; 
upon these lines they placed little stones, whose positions 
were regulated by throwing up beans marked with points 
like dice. Whoever was able to get three stones in a row, 
won the game. 

Poetry, more properly singing, was highly relished by the 
Mexicans according to Clavigero; and they had certainly 
gone very far towards establishing theatrical exhibitions. 
But as we conceive what is to be said upon that subject, be- 
longs more especially to their religious ceremonies, we shall 
introduce it when we discourse of their god Quetzalcoatl. 

Their musical instruments consisted of trumpets, conchs, 
small flutes, various kinds of rattles, and drums of different 
sizes, the largest of which, both in construction, magnitude 
and sound, equalled those used on the Orinoco (see page 137.) 

They also entertained themselves with numerous charac- 
teristic dances. Some of these were religious, others war- 
like, and others illustrated the labours of agriculture, hunt- 
ing, &c. The kings, priests, and nobles, all took parts in 
suitable dances. 

Of the Manufactures and Jlrts of the Mexicans. 

The manufactures of the Mexicans were of many differ- 
ent kinds, which for better consideration we shall divide 
into two classes; 1st. those of necessity or utility, and 2d. 
those of decoration or ornament. 

In the first place, their garments, in a great proportion, were 


made of threads, spun and wove from various plants, and 
occasionally intermixed with fur or feathers. Of cotton 
they made cloths, according to Clavigero, as fine as those of 
Holland, and which v^ere even valued in Europe. They 
wove these cloths with various coloured figures, representing 
animals, flowers, &c. With feathers intermixed with cot- 
ton, they made mantles, carpets, &c. ; and with the fine hair 
on the bellies of hares and rabbits, intermixed with raw 
cotton, they spun a thread which was dyed of various co- 
lours, and woven into good cloth. 

From the maguey they made two kinds of cloth, one of 
which was like hempen-cloth, and a finer kind which re- 
sembled linen; and from the fibrous barks of various plants 
peculiar to their country, they made other fabrics similar in 

They also manufactured leather like the chamois for 
clothing; an article which we have mentioned already, as 
being used by the barbarous tribes, and they also prepared 
the skins of beasts and birds with the hair or feathers, for 
garments in colder weather. 

The Mexicans manufactured a species of coarse silk, pro- 
duced by an insect of the country. {Clavigero, Hist. Mex. 
i. 95.) Cortez in his letters to the emperor Charles 5th, 
mentions silk as one of the commodities sold in the Mexi- 
can markets. They also made paper from this silk. 

In their pottery they were considered ingenious work- 
men, and they manufactured a great variety of earthen wares, 
which they embellished with vai'ious figures and colours. 

From obsidian, called by them itzli, they made mirrors, 
knives, lancets, and other cutting instruments. 

From copper they manufactured their culinary vessels, 
agricultural implements, tools, and military weapons. From 
the accounts given by Herrera, {Hist. Jimerica, iii. 253,) it 
appears that they understood the art of hardening copper for 
their tools; for he says "they cut like steel." 

From gold and silver, they manufactured plate for the 
service of their kings, and for various other purposes. 

They employed lead and tin in the fabrication of various 
utensils, which were sold in their markets when Cortez first 
visited Mexico. {Herrera, Hist. America, ii. 369.) 

The Mexicans made large quantities of paper from the 
leaves of the maguey and other plants, upon which their 
laws, institutions, and history, were depicted. As these 
books were painted with deep and glowing colours, they tes- 
tify to their knowledge of paints and dyes: We have derived 
cochineal from them. 


They made statues of wood, clay, and stone, I believe, 
alone for idolatrous purposes; and which were destroyed by 
the first Spanish conquerors in great numbers. They also 
executed some works of basso relievo in stone, which in one 
instance at least, is mentioned with commendation by Acosta. 

In fine and fancy works of gold and silver, they were at 
the time of the conquest, reputed equal, if not superior to 
the Spanish goldsmiths; and they understood the art of cut- 
ting and polishing gems and coloured stones, to the greatest 
perfection. The account given by Clavigero of these mat- 
ters, is not the least interesting part of his work. 

But perhaps the most celebrated ornamental works of the 
Mexicans, were those designs in feathers called by the Spa- 
niards mosaic; which represented any thing that might be 
expressed by painting. They were made with infinite la- 
bour by pasting on paper the feathers of the humming bird, 
and other small birds of brilliant plumage. All the earlier 
historians of Mexico, speak of these feather-paintings with 
great admiration; and they were valued by the Mexicans 
themselves, beyond any other kind of ornamental work. 

Of the Dt'ess of the Mexicans. 

The dress of the men was very simple, being for the most 
part nothing but a mantle or cloak, of about four feet square, 
made from some of those manufactures we have just de- 
scribed, and which was tied over the breast. The breech- 
cloth was worn for purposes of decency alone; and occa- 
sionally they wore light drawers reaching to the knee. 
They wore sandals on their feet, which were tied on the 
foot and ankle with strings; being a simple sole of skin or 
coarse maguey cloth. 

They do not appear to have worn any ordinary covering 
for the head, as a protection from the sun or weather. 

The women wore a cloth wrapped round tlie waist, which 
descended to the middle of the leg; and over this, a kind of 
loose chemise without collar or sleeves. 

The dresses of the nobility differed from those of the 
common people, only in the fineness and quality of the ma- 
terials; and which were further distinguished, by the gold 
and jewels which they, as a privileged class, were alone 
permitted to wear. 

Of Commerce and Traffic among the Mexicans. 

The circumstance of the Mexicans having an extensive 
internal commerce among themselves, presents their state of 
civilization in a strong light, and a detailed view of their 


home trade, if we could carry It out to its proper length, 
would I think, shew facilities in acquiring the means of sub- 
sistence and comforts of life, little inferior to the national 
economy of many European nations at the time of the 
Spanish conquest. 

In the nature of their traffic, we more distinctly perceive 
the true principles of commerce, than we can with that 
of civilized nations; who by making use of a metallic cur- 
rency as an intermediate article of barter, have so far in- 
volved the subject of trade with the value of money, that 
there is hardly any subject less generally understood. But 
without the least idea of introducing a subject so foreign to 
the nature of our essay, we beg leave to say, that the reader 
curious in these matters will here have an opportunity of ob- 
serving the true principles of trade, and the modification of 
barter, by the establishment of some common article of va- 
luation like our money system; to which modification the 
Mexican trade was most sensibly advancing, at the time the 
Spaniards subverted the empire of Montezuma. {Clavig. 
Hist. Mex. ii. 191.) 

A very large square was set apart in all the principal ci- 
ties of the kingdom, for the exhibition and sale of the va- 
rious articles of merchandise brought to market. Though 
these bazaars were attended every day, yet every fifth day 
was considered the principal or proper market day; and to 
suit the convenience of the various merchants that constantly 
visited these marts, the adjacent cities held their principal 
market on such days as would not interfere with those of 
their neighbours. The number of persons collected together 
at such times in the city of Mexico, has been estimated by 
the Spanish conquerors at forty or fifty thousand. 

Into this public square, was brought every imaginable ar- 
ticle of utility or ornament, suitable to the Mexican taste. 
Each class of merchandise was confined to a particular part 
of the market, out of which it was not permitted to be sold 
or bartered. We may observe in this place, that there were 
no shops or stores for selling goods, interspersed among the 
houses of the city; all their traflic was confined to the pub- 
lic square. 

The merchants paid a toll or custom to the king, upon all 
the wares they brought into the market. 

Their sales were for the most part a barter among them- 
selves for the various articles they required; but as there 
was an evident inconvenience in proportioning the values of 
exchanges where only small quantities were wanted, as 
well as not having always suitable articles to make the 


desired barter, they had adopted the more convenient practice, 
on suitable occasions, of selling their commodities for certain 
articles, that could be at all times bartered, either in large or 
small quantities, among the merchants attending the market. 
The substances that thus answered the purpose of money, 
were of the following kinds, viz. bags of cacao, which con- 
tained a certain number of nuts, and which passed current 
from one person to another at that valuation. 2d. Small cot- 
ton cloths of various sizes. 3d. Gold in dust, which was 
contained in quills, and was estimated according to the quan- 
tity enclosed. 4th. Copper cut into the form of the letter 
T, was used for small purchases, as also thin pieces of tin. 

They sold or exchanged their wares by number or mea- 
sure, but it is doubtful whether they made use of scales and 
weights. Cortez in his letters to Charles 5th, (Humboldt^ 
Pol. Ess. ii. 11,) says he did not observe any weights to be 
used in their markets, though he saw certain officers break 
the false measures used by the salesmen. 

To prevent frauds and disorders in these bazaars, certain 
commissioners were continually going about among the tra- 
ders; and if they observed any thing amiss, reported it to a 
tribunal of twelve judges located in the square, who punished 
the offence according to law. 

For the convenience of merchants and travellers, public 
roads were made, which were regularly examined and re- 
paired every year after the rainy season. In lonely and un- 
frequented parts of the country, houses were erected for the 
accommodation of travellers; and bridges or boats provided 
for crossing rivers. 

Their bridges were for the most part made of twisted vines, 
generally known by the name of swinging or hanging bridges; 
but it appears from Clavigero, {Hist. Alex. ii. 195, iii. 315,) 
that in some few instances, stone bridges had been constructed. 

As the Mexicans and other nations of Anahuac had no ani- 
mals trained to carry burthens, their heavier articles of mer- 
chandise were transported in canoes, but commodities of 
lighter weights, were carried by regular porters on their 
backs. These men, called by them TlamaTna, were brought 
up from infancy to this laborious service, and it is said that 
with their usual load, which was about sixty pounds in weight, 
they would walk fifteen miles per day, and that frequently 
they made journeys of three hundred miles, loaded in this 


Of the Mexican Ceremonies at Marriages, Births, and 

The customs of the Mexicans regarding matrimony and 
the commerce of the sexes, for the most part resembled the in- 
stitutions and practices of civilized life, both in what may be 
termed their decorous or licentious observances. 

Fornication was not punished by their laws, but adulterers 
were stoned to death. 

There were public stews in Mexico, and according to Her- 
rera, {Hist. Am. ii. 403,) they must have been largely sup- 
plied; for he says, that Montezuma suppressed a part of the 
city, in which were four hundred prostitutes. 

Polygamy was permitted, but I presume, was almost en- 
tirely restricted to the rich and noble, whose greater means 
of subsistence would alone permit this expensive indulgence. 
The Mexican kings generally had several wives; and during 
the reigns of some of the last monarchs, they had large ha- 
rems. (Clavig. Hist. Mex. i. 281.) 

In contracting matrimonial alliances, they vi^ere regulated 
by certain degrees of consanguinity, which do not appear to 
differ from those established among ourselves: for they per- 
mitted cousins to intermarry, but none of nearer degrees of 
blood. In some remote and more uncivilized parts of the 
empire, the nobles occasionally married their widowed mo- 
thers-in-law, provided they had not borne children to their 
fathers: but in Mexico, Tezcuco, &c. such marriages were 
considered incestuous, and the parties were punished se- 

Brothers and sisters-in-law were also allowed to marry 
after the death of their husbands, not however upon the prin- 
ciple of the Jews, to raise up seed for the dead, but to pro- 
vide for the family of the deceased, and to raise his children 
up as their second father. [Clavig. Hist. Mex. ii. 151.) 

Divorces were allowed under the Mexican laws, but by an 
equitable ordinance, the judges of the land must authorize 
the act of separation, before it could be considered lawful. 

In contracting matrimony, it seems that the parents alone 
made the choice, but we presume always regarding the incli- 
nations of the parties, and utiless some superstitious omen 
appeared to forbid the union. Their practices on such occa- 
sions, however, merit a general description, as they offer 
strong analogies in their arbitrary forms to those of some 
Oriental nations. 

According to the Abbe Clavigero, {Hist. Mex. ii. 99,) 
when a young man had arrived to the age of about twenty 
years, a female between sixteen and eighteen years old, was 


singled out for his wife. But before any steps were taken to 
procure her, the diviners or conjurers were consulted whe- 
ther the projected match would he a happy one; and accord- 
ing to the responses given on this matter, it was either totally 
abandoned, or certain elderly women among the most re- 
spectable of the young man's kindred, formally demanded her 
in a humble and respectful manner from her parents. This 
demand we are told, was at first invariably rejected, but after 
some days had elapsed, the negociations were renewed on 
the part of the young man's friends, and after certain formal- 
ities in which the friends alone were concerned, a final answer 
was given. If the match was agreed on, a certain day was 
appointed for the nuptials, at which time the bride was con- 
ducted to her father-in-law's house, with numerous company 
and music, and if she was noble they carried her in a litter. 
The bridegroom and his friends, received her at the gate of 
the house; when he took her by the hand and led her into 
the chamber prepared for the nuptials, where they sat down 
upon a new mat, spread in the middle of the chamber, and 
near a fire. The priest then tied ike mantle of the bride- 
groom to the gown of the bride; and in this ceremony, the 
matrimonial contract chiefly consisted. The wife then walk- 
ed several times about the fire, and returning to the mat, 
along with her husband offered copal to their gods, and ex- 
changed presents with one another. A repast followed, and 
the married couple eat upon the mat, giving mouthfulsto one 
another, and to the guests. After the feast, and when the 
guests had become exhilarated from drinking, they went out 
into the yard to dance, but the new married pair never stir- 
red from the chamber for four days. They passed these four 
days in prayer and fasting, dressed in new habits, adorned 
with the insignia of the gods of their devotions, and drawing 
blood from different parts of their bodies. These austerities 
were observed with the greatest exactness, for they feared 
the heaviest punishments from their gods, if the marriage 
was consum,mated before the end of these four days. 

The first part of the Mexican ceremonies, are very near- 
ly the same with the customs of the Ceylonese upon similar 
occasions, {tjlsiat. Res. vii. 427.) 

The family of the man send a friend to those of the woman, 
to sound their inclinations on this subject, and generally the 
girl's family receive notice of it, and give a feast to their 
guest: a few days afterwards, the nearest and most aged re- 
lation of the man, makes a second visit to the girl's family, 
and informs himself of her fortune and circumstances, and if 
they are satisfactory he proposes an alliance. To this he re- 


ceives no answer, but they treat him with a much greater 
feast than before, and which is usually a sign of consent. 
The next day a relation of the girl visits the famil}'- of the 
young man, and receives a considerable entertainment in his 
turn; he also makes some necessary inquiries, and then says, 
if the young couple are satisfied, it would be well to marry 
them. A magician is then consulted as to the most lucky 
day, hour, &c. 

The marriage ceremonies of the Hindus, are remarkably 
similar to those of the Mexicans in some leading particulars; 
{Jlsiat. Res. vii. 309. Ward's View of the Hindus, i. 173,) 
and which to avoid a tedious description we shall but reca- 

The bridegroom goes in procession to the house of the 
bride's father, and is there welcomed as a guest. The bride 
is then given to him in the usual form of any solemn dona- 
tion, and their hands are bound together with grass; the bride- 
groom then clothes the bride with an upper and lower gar- 
ment; the7i the skirts of their mantles are tied together, 
the bridegroom makes oblations to the fire, and the bride 
drops rice upon it, and after several inconsiderable ceremo- 
nies, the company is dismissed; the marriage being now 
complete and irrevocable. In the evening of the same day 
the bridegroom points out to her the pole star, as an emblem 
or figure of constancy; during the three subsequent days, 
the married couple must live chastely and austerely; and 
after these three days, which is the fourth from the cele- 
bration of the marriage ceremony, the bridegroom con- 
ducts the bride to his own house. 

The custom of tying the garments of the bride and bride- 
groom together, was also practised in the marriages of the 
ancient Persians, {Hyde de Religio Vet. Pers. 405.) "Sponsi 
sponsaque vestium extremitatibus sibi invicem consutis et 
colligatis, eos circumaguntet circa ignem ducunt cum festivi- 
tate et epulis," and as it is no bad emblem of their new con- 
dition, it is rather surprising that this particular custom has 
not been more widely adopted. But we cannot find any 
evident reason, why some nations have, like the Mexicans, 
defered the consummation of marriage until four days had 
elapsed. Abu'l Ghazi {Hist. Tartars, ii. 483.) says, it is 
the custom of the Bucharian bridegrooms, to lay down on 
the bed of the bride for a few moments, in the presence of 
the wedding guests for three successive evenings; but the 
marriage is not consummated till the fourth day. 

The ceremonies made use of by the Mexicans on the 
birth of a child, were certainly religious; but are too unin- 


teresting to be detailed, though we must confirm the truth 
of the analogies remarked by Governor Raffles, {Hist. Java. 
i. 324.) to exist between the Mexicans and Javanese, in 
their practices on such occasions. 

The children of the Mexican kings and nobility, were 
most generally educated in their monasteries and temples 
under the tuition of the priests; to whose charge they were 
consigned after their fifth year. {Clavig. Hist. Mex. ii. 
112.) In these schools the sexes were educated apart. 

Plebeians might also send their children to these places of 
education and religion, but they were separated from those 
of the nobility. 

In these seminaries they generally remained until they 
were old enough to marry, and which ceremony usually 
took place on their quitting the temple. 

The Mexicans disposed of their dead either by burial or 
burning, the last of which was the general practice. Indeed, 
burial appears to have been restricted to those persons who 
had been drowned, or had died of dropsy, and some other 
diseases. {Clavig. Hist. Mex. ii. 108.) We have no reasons 
assigned for these exceptions. 

The corpse was dressed in the habits and insignia of the 
deity who was supposed to have patronised the art or pro- 
fession of the deceased. The arms, utensils, &c. that he 
had used during life, were disposed around him, and an ani- 
mal resembling a dog, called by them techichi, was killed to 
accompany, or rather to guide him through certain dangers, 
to which the soul was exposed in its journey to the world of 
spirits. The priests also gave the dead man several pieces 
of paper, which were to serve as passports or charms, against 
other dangers, that obstruct that mysterious road, along 
which the dead alone can pass. These dangers were from 
mountains that clashed or fought with each other, great 
serpents, crocodiles, deserts, piercing cold winds, &c. 

The same disposition of the corpse was made, whether 
the body was buried or burned. In the former case it was 
deposited in the ground in a sitting position, with those 
matters around, which a pious superstition taught them to 
believe would be serviceable to the dead in his futur estate 
of existence. If the body was burned, the ashes were col- 
lected into an earthen pot, in which was deposited a gem, 
which they believed would serve the deceased as a heart in 
the next world. This urn was buried in a deep ditch, and 
eighty days after inhumation, they offered over it oblations 
of meals and drinks. 

There was no appointed place of interment, for some 


were buried near the temples, others in the fields and moun- 
tains; and the kings and chiefs, frequently directed their 
ashes to be preserved in the sanctuaries of the temples. 

Such were the funeral ceremonies used by the common 
people; but on the death of their kings and nobility, addi- 
tional forms were observed; which we do not deem neces- 
sary to describe, further, than they put slaves or servants to 
death, sometimes in great numbers, to attend these barbari- 
an lords in the future world. They killed the techichis as 
already described, and supplied the ashes with the gem for 
a heart in like manner. 

Most of the ceremonies used at the Mexican funerals, have 
been practised among rude nations in every part of the 
world; and the custom of depositing a stone or jewel with the 
remains, to answer the purpose of a heart, whimsical as it 
may seem, appears to have been equally the custom of some 
nations of the Eastern continent: Thus the Hindoos to this 
day, enclose a stone with the ashes of their dead,* apparent- 
ly to this intent. 

Mr. Pegge, in his observations on the Staunton Moor 
urns, {Jlrchsslogia, viii. 5S,) remarks, that in these druidi- 
cal monuments, which all contain burned human bones, is 
found a substance supposed to be mountain pitch, which is 
cut into the shape of a heart, and which it may be presumed 
was enclosed from superstitious motives, analogous to those 
of the Mexicans. 

Of the Mexican Wars. 

Previous to declaring war, an embassy of three or four no- 
ble and eloquent persons were sent to the hostile party, either 
to obtain redress, or to make demands. These ambassadors 
wore dresses and certain insignia, that manifested their cha- 
racter; and by the national law of Anahuac, their persons 
were inviolable, provided they did not leave the high-way. 

If no accommodation took place, they declared war, which 
was formally notified to the enemy by sending them several 
shields, &c. 

The Mexican army was composed of several corps of men 
which the Spaniards called companies, though they consist- 
ed of two or three hundred warriors. In a large army there 
were three grades of officers superior to the commanders of 
the companies, and inferior to the general in chief; but their 
particular duties are not known at the present time. 

The discipline of their troops was strict; they marched 

* I have mislaid my authority for this fact, but believe it to have been one 
of the volumes of the Asiatic Researches. 


and fought in close order, and it is said, they punished with 
death those who engaged the enemy without permission. 

Clavigero {Hist. Mex. ii. 170,) says a body of men during 
their battles, was stationed to act as a corps du reserve. He 
says in another page, that among the nations of Anahuac, the 
first battle was usually fought in a field appointed for that 

Though each company had its own standard, there was one 
which was considered the general standard of the army; and 
which appears to have been commonly tied to the back of the 

These standards resembled the Roman signum, being 
staves of about eight or ten feet in length, on which the in- 
signia of the state, made of gold, feathers, &c., was placed. 
That of the Mexicans, according to Clavigero, was an eagle 
darting on a tiger; but I am inclined to think, there must be 
an error in our English translation of his history in this par- 
ticular; as an eagle devouring a serpent, was properly the 
arms or insignia of the Mexican nation. 

The chief object of their soldiers was to make prisoners, 
whom they afterwards sacrificed to their gods according to 
their bloody rites; and those persons were rewarded, who 
had taken the greatest number of prisoners. 

It does not appear to me, that the Mexicans took any par- 
ticular trophy from the dead. On one occasion, they cut ofi" 
Ihe ears of those they made prisoners during a battle; [Cla- 
vig. Hist. Mex. i. 159,) but which practice does not appear 
to have been ever repeated. 

A prisoner that had been ca])tured by a king, after he had 
been sacrificed to the gods of Mexico, was skinned with the 
head entire, and being stuffed with cotton, was hung up in 
some conspicuous place: but this custom seems to have been 
restricted to kingly triumphs, as a kind of ''spolia opima." 

Clavigero {Hist. Mex. ii. 161,) relates, that military deco- 
rations of three different kinds, were given to those persons 
who had distinguished themselves in war; and which entitled 
them to certain privileges ever afterwards in the kingdom. 
They were severally called princes, eagles, and tigers. 

The weapons used by the Mexicans, were the bow and ar- 
row, slings, clubs, spears and darts, which last were thrown 
with a strap, {Herrera^ ii. 301,) as was anciently the prac- 
tice with the Greeks. They also made use of a weapon call- 
ed by them Maquahuifl, and by the Spaniards a sword. It 
was a stout stick about three and a half feet in length, armed 
on two opposite sides with sharp pieces of flint or obsi- 


dian. * The blows with this weapon when first manufactured, 
were equal to those made with the Spanish sword; but a lit- 
tle use destroyed its effect other than as a club. They also 
used the macana, serrated with flints in this manner. {Her- 
rera, iii. 265.) 

Their spears were sometimes eighteen feet in length, and 
were armed with pieces of copper, flints, sharp bones, and 
sometimes were hardened by a partial burning in the fire. 

Their martial music was made with drums, trumpets, and 
sea shells, with which they made a great noise, and by which 
they partly regulated their movements in time of action. 

To defend their bodies in time of battle, they carried shields 
made from various materials, and of different sizes; some of 
which were large enough to cover the whole person. They 
also wore an armour made of quilted cotton, which covered 
the body, thighs, and upper part of the arm. This was suf- 
ficient proof against arrows, and was adopted by the Spanish 
conquerors in their wars with the Mexicans. On this ar- 
mour, decorations of feathers, jewels, gold, &:c. were osten- 
tatiously displayed, according to the ability of the soldier. In 
a few instances they appear to have used cuirasses made of 
plates of copper or silver, but they were of rare occurrence. 

On the head, they wore a helmet made of wood, or other 
material, and generally fashioned to represent the head of 
some ferocious animal, with expanded jaws and large teeth. 

Such was the armour and dress of soldiers of some rank 
and consideration; the common class of warriors were near- 
ly naked, and made up in paint, what was wanted in defen- 
sive armour. 

The Mexicans and Acolhuans had hospital establishments, 
provided for ihe reception of those persons, who had become 
disabled in war, or had grown superannuated in civil employ- 
ment. Such persons were sent to the cities of Colhuacan 
and Tezcuco, where they were for the remainder of their 
lives provided for by the king. {ClavigerOy Hist. Mex. i. 
289, 315.) 

We have no good description of their military fortifica- 
tions; Clavigero relates, that they defended themselves with 
walls, ramparts, breast-works, palisadoes, ditches and en- 
trenchments; but he nearly confines himself to this bare enu- 

Their walls were strong and sometimes of considerable ex- 

* The natives of the Sandwich islands, (Cook, Voy. J^. H. ii. 348,) used an 
instrument like that of the Mexicans, its edges being serrated with shark's 
teeth. It was, however, of much smaller size, being only about a foot in 


tent. The one built by the Tlascalans to protect their coun- 
try from Mexican invasion, was six miles in length, eight 
feet high, besides the breast work, and eighteen feet thick. 
It was made with stone and a strong cement of lime. 

Their ditches were deep and wide, so that drawbridges 
were necessary to pass them. It was this species of defence, 
that so long preserved Mexico against the attempts of Cortez 
and his numerous Indian allies. 

Of the ^Astronomical System of the Mexicans. 

Before we proceed to discourse concerning the Mexican 
astronomy, it seems proper, that we should make a few 
brief observations upon the hieroglyphical system, by which 
their computations and observations have been preserved 
until the present time. 

It is well known that the Toltecas, Mexicans, and other 
nations of Anahuac, were unacquainted with the art of al- 
phabetical writing. To supply the want of that admirable 
invention, they drew pictures, representing the historical 
events they wished to perpetuate, in a manner analogous to 
the plates, or engraved illustrations of our more popular 
writings. So far as a simple drawing could perpetuate an 
event, this method, though tedious, is sufficiently intelligible: 
but when the deeds of nations were to be recorded, or those 
of particular individuals illustrious for their virtues or 
achievements, their drawings became comparatively more 
intricate; for they designated the personages that appear in 
their paintings, by arbitrary marks or drawings, that either 
expressed their names phonetically, or else characterized 
them by a special device, which though at first of arbitrary 
use, had become by long practice universally understood.* 

To express the chronology of their history, they desig- 
nated along the margin of their books, hieroglyphical re- 
presentations of their years, as they followed each other in 
regular cyclic succession; to any one of which was connected 
a pictured representation of the event to be recorded, as 
having happened in that particular year. 

At the time of their subjection to the Spaniards, their 
system of hieroglyphic or rather picture representations, 
was evidently becoming more abstract; for they had begun 
to abridge their drawings, by representing only such parts 
of the object as was necessary to make it understood; and 

*Boturini is said to have found a quippos among the Tlascalans, the 
threads of which had been nearly destroyed by time. (Clavig. Hist. Mex. 
ii. 225.) I think it more probable this was a simple wampum belt, which 
Ihey had received in some treaty with the northern barbarous Indians. 


for certain abstract things, they had devised special hiero- 
glyphics sufficiently intelligible. In this manner they de- 
signated the heavens, the earth, air, water, day, night, mid- 
night, the year, &c., so that in all probability in the course 
of time, if they had continued unknown to European cu- 
pidity, they would have brought their hieroglyphic system 
into one analogous to that of the Chinese. 

The numerals were expressed as far as 19, by as many 
round dots; the number twenty was represented by a parti- 
cular figure. The next hieroglyphic numeral denoted 400, 
and the fourth, which completes all that we now possess of 
their system of notation, represented 8000. With these 
arithmetical hieroglyphics, repeated as often as necessary, it 
is evident that any number may be expressed; though it is 
not improbable, they had other marks of greater numerical 
power, than the highest we have mentioned. 

By the methods we have thus described, they represented 
the history of their kings, designating the events of the 
year according to time and place, in accurate chronological 
order. And in a manner a little more artificial, they re- 
corded the facts and principles of their astronomy, their re- 
ligion, law, and moral economy. These pictured books are 
not very difficult to interpret with a moderate study of 
some elementary principles, and notwithstanding the vast 
quantity of them, destroyed by the brutal fanatacism of the 
Spanish conquerors, a sufficient number yet remain to estab- 
lish those facts, which we shall presently introduce to the 
reader's attention; and which have been derived from the 
writings of Acosta, Clavigero, Humboldt, and others. 

The Mexicans computed time, by two calendars of diffisr- 
ent construction; one of these called Reckoning of the Su7i, 
was used for civil purposes, the other, or Reckoning of the 
Moon, was employed in regulating their religious festivals. 

To convey as distinct an idea as possible of Mexican as- 
tronomy, we must describe the two calendars separately; 
and first of the civil computation, or Reckoning of the 

Their civil year consisted of three hundred and sixty-five 
days, and was divided into eighteen months, of twenty days 
each. To the eighteenth or last month, the five epagom.enes 
were added, which, as they did not belong to any month, 
were called by them nemontemi, "void or useless days." 

But as the tropical year is nearly six hours longer than 
three hundred and sixty-five days, the Mexicans lost a day 
every four years. Tliough they were aware of this circum- 
stance, they disregarded it until their cycle of fifty-two 


vague years had expired, by which time they had lost thir- 
teen days: they then intercallated that number of days, be- 
fore they commenced another cycle of fifty-two years. 

From this statement it will be seen, that the year com- 
menced differently every fourth year of the cycle of fifty- 
two vague years; so that the first year, commenced accord- 
ing to our time, on the ninth of January, but the last year 
of the cycle began on the twenty-seventh of December.* 

The eighteen months of the year had each a particular 
name; derived from some peculiar festival or employment, 
or from some bird, plant, or fruit, whose appearance was 
expected at certain seasons. We shall not enumerate them, 
as in the Mexican language they would be unintelligible, 
and it is out of our ability to translate them without some 
commentary; which would add unnecessarily to the discus- 
sions of this chapter. But we must observe, that each 
month, had its own characteristic hieroglyphical mark. 

The twenty days of the month, had each their specific 
name, also expressed by a regular hieroglyphic for each day, 
and we must also observe, that the same names for days, be- 
longed to every month of the year; a circumstance that oc- 
casioned no confusion, as the name of the month was always 
used in connexion with that of the day. 

Each month was divided into four periods of five days 
each, and on every fifth day, they held their markets or 

The day commenced with sunrising, and was divided into 
eight portions of time, a division recognised by the Hindus, 
Romans, &c. 

We must now observe, that the Mexicans did not reckon 
the chronological events of their history, from century to 
century, as is the practice of European nations; but accord- 
ing to the particular years of a cycle, containing fifty-two 

This period of fifty-two years, was called by them 
Xiuhmolpilli, and two of them formed another cycle called 
Cehuehuetiliztli^ a duplication, that is observed by many 
writers upon Mexican antiquities, and which it is of some 
importance to remember. But to avoid the repetition of 
such long and unusual words, we shall speak of them as all 
writers have done preceding us, by calling the first a half 
century, and the latter a century. 

'* Though 1 have followed Humboldt, or rather Gama, in this statement of 
the commencement of the year, I am far from being satisfied of its correct- 
ness. There is a great discrepancy among the Spanish writers on this point; 
and considering the exactness of the Mexican astronomy in all its particu- 
lars, I am inclined to think that the first year of the cycle of hfty-two years, 
commenced nearer the winter solstice, or twenty-aecond December. 


It has been already stated, that the civil year of the Mex- 
icans was a vague year of 365 days; and that consequently 
they lost near six hours annually in their computation. At 
the end of their cycle of fifty-two years, these hours amount- 
ed to nearly thirteen days, which they then added to the 
fifty-two vague years, and thus adjusted their time to the 
tropical course of the sun. To this account we have only 
to add at present, that the cycle of fifty-two years was divi- 
ded into four parts, each called Tlapilli, and containing 
thirteen vague years. 

The manner by which they enumerated the different years, 
composing the cycle oi fifty -two years, was by a periodical 
series of two different sets of hieroglyphics; one of which 
consisted of four figures or hieroglyphics, and the other of 
thirteen round dots or marks, expressing numerals from one 
to thirteen; which it will be seen can never coincide to- 
gether, but once in fifty-two permutations. 

The four hieroglyphics we have mentioned, were in the 
Mexican language, Tochtli a rabbit; Acatl a reed; Tecpatl 
a flint; and Calli a house; which invariably follow each other 
in the order we have enumerated them. Each expresses one 
year. But as they are accompanied by the numerical dots, 
it will be seen that no one hieroglyphic is attended with the 
same number of dots. 

To shew the peculiar composition of the cycle of fifty- 
two years, we shall exhibit in a tabular view the two series 
of hieroglyphic characters in their regular order of permu- 
tation. The words tochtli, acatl, &c., represent the figures 
of the rabbit, reed, &c., as depicted by the Mexicans; and 
the cyphers made with types of a "broad face," represent 
the number of dots or rounds, as they counted them from 
one to thirteen. The particular year of the cycle is shown 
by ordinary cyphers. 



















1st TIalpilli. 


2d TIalpilli. 


3d TIalpilli. 


4 th TIalpilli. 









1 Tochtli. 


1 Acatl. 


1 Tecpatl. 


1 Calli. 


2 Acatl. 


2 Tecpatl. 


2 Calli. 


2 Tochtli. 


3 Tecpatl. 


3 Calli. 


3 Tochtli. 


3 Acatl. 


4 Calli. 


4 Tochtli. 


4 Acatl. 


4 Tecpatl. 


5 Tochtli. 


5 Acatl. 


5 Tecpatl. 


5 Calli. 


6 Acatl. 


6 Tecpatl. 


6 Calli. 


6 Tochtli. 


7 Tecpatl. 


7 Calli. 


7 Tochtli. 


7 Acatl. 


8 Calli. 


8 Tochtli. 


8 Acatl. 


8 Tecpatl. 


9 Tochtli. 


9 Acatl. 


9 Tecpatl. 


9 Calli. 


10 Acatl. 


10 Tecpatl. 


10 Calli. 


10 Tochtli. 


H Tecpatl. 


11 Calli. 


11 Tochtli. 


11 Acatl. 


12 Calli. 


12 Tochtli. 


12 Acatl. 


12 Tecaptl. 


13 Tochtli. 


13 Acatl. 


13 Tecpatl. 


13 Calli. 


By this table it will be seen, that the four hieroglyphics 
Tochtli, (rabbit) Acatl, (reed) Tecpatl, (flint) and Calli, 
(house) though constantly repeated in succession, never oc- 
cur twice in the cycle of fifty-two years joined with the 
same numerical dots; for the series of 4 x 13? cannot coin- 
cide oftener than once in fifty-two revolutions. When an 
event occured according to the Mexican phrase in 1 Tochtli, 
it was the same, as saying in the first year of the cycle; if in 
5 Tochtli, which is the next time that hieroglyphic occurs, 
it was the fifth year; 9 Tochtli the ninth; 13 Tochtli the 
thirteenth; 4 Tochtli the seventeenth; 8 Tochtli the twen- 
ty-first year; and so on; as any one may understand by the 
inspection of our table. 

The numerical dots are not used beyond the number thir- 
teen, and when the series had extended thus far, the first 
TLALPiLLi had expired, which it does with 13 Tochtli. The 
SECOND TLALPILLI, begins with 1 Acatl, and terminates with 
13 Acatl. The third tlalpilli, begins with 1 Tecpatl, 
and uses the numerical dots in like manner to 13 Tecjmtl; 
and the fourth tlalpilli, begins with 1 Calli, and ends 
with 13 Calli. With this last, the Xiuhmolpilli or cycle 
of fifty-two years terminated. Then followed the thirteen 
intercalary days, expressed by that number of round dots, 
which compensate for the six hours they had annually lost, 
since the commencement of the cycle. After they had run 
out, a new cycle commenced with 1 Tochtli, &c. &c., as we 
have just shewn. 


By the above statement it will be seen, that the years of 
different cycles of fifty-two years, might be confounded to- 
gether, unless their system also distinguished each cycle by 
some distinct hieroglyphic mark. The Abbe Clavigero 
thought, that the method by which this confusion was avoid- 
ed, has been lost to us; but Humboldt {Research, i. 300) 
tells us, that they distinguished their cycles from each other 
by numerical dots. "Thus the hieroglyphic of the Xiuh- 
molpilli, followed by four rounds, (or dots,) shewed the 
Mexicans that four cycles of fifty-two years had elapsed 
from the Sacrifice at Tlalixco:" an epoch in their history, 
from whence they made their chronological computations. 

We now pass to the description of the Religious Calendar, 
or Reckoning of the Moon. 

This Calendar, which was used by the priests for the re- 
gulation of their festivals, presents a series of periods of 
thirteen days, formed by the periodic alternation of thirteen 
numerical dots, and the twenty hieroglyphics of the days of 
the months, by which a cycle of 260 days is formed, for 
13 X 20 =260. This period has been called their Religious 

Seventy -three cycles of 260 days, amount to 18,980 days; 
which is precisely the number contained in the half century 
of 52 years, in which great cycle, both their civil and reli- 
gious computations terminate. 

As these two calendars have been evidently framed to 
gratify a superstitious fancy in the use of particular num- 
bers, we beg leave to call the reader's attention to the various 
numbers. Their cycle of fift3'^-two years, was divided into 
four periods of thirteen years; thirteen months of twenty 
days, formed their religious cycle of 260 days; and periods 
of thirteen days, constitute the smallest reckonings of their 
Religious Calendar. 

Each tlapilli, or period of thirteen vague years, also con- 
tains three hundred and sixty-five periods of thirteen days. 

The Civil Year contained eighteen months, of twenty 
days, each divided into/owr weeks, or periods of five days. 

The cycle of fifty-two years, was divided into four pe- 
riods of thirteen years, as before stated; but it was further 
divided into thirteen periods, of four years each. At the 
commencement of these quadriennial cycles, they made ex- 
traordinary festivals; and the whole fourth year was called 
a divine year. It always bore the sign of the rabbit. 

The number seventy-three, occurs but in one instance; 
but as we are of the opinion, that they had particular rea- 
sons for using it, which we shall hereafter shewj we must 


call the attention of the reader to the fact, that seventy -three 
periods of 260 days, equals the days of the cycle of fifty- 
two years; a circumstance remarked by Clavigero. [Hist. 
Mex. i. 334.) 

Before we proceed in our discussion concerning the prin- 
ciples of the Mexican astronomy, we must observe, that 
Baron Humboldt has made us acquainted with a particular 
series in alternation with the numbers 13X20 composing 
the cycle of 260 days; which we purposely omitted descri- 
bing when speaking of that cycle; because we cannot give 
an unhesitating assent to the explanation of its use as con- 
jectured by him. 

This third series, known by the names of Lords of the 
Night; consists of nine hieroglyphics. It has been over- 
looked by Europe-Mexican antiquaries, until the late Mr. 
Gama, a celebrated Mexican astronomer, made them known 
a few years since; and as far as we know, alone by the me- 
dium of Humboldt's writings. 

It is said by this eminent traveller, {Res. i. 314,) that the 
use of the Lords of the Night, arises from the following 
circumstance. The cycle of 260 days is composed from the 
periodic alternations of 13 and 20, or 13 X 20 = 260; but as 
the civil year contained 105 days more than the cycle of 260 
days, it might happen, that some confusion would ensue 
upon the repetition of the same terms for the remaining 105 
days of the year; and that to avoid this source of confusion, 
they used in connexion with the terms 13 and 20, nine hiero- 
glyphics, which render it impossible, that the three series 
can coincide twice in the same year. He further observes, 
that the Mexicans appear to have chosen the number nine^ 
from the facility with which it is divided forty times into 
360 days. 

It is with great diffidence, that I venture to dissent from 
so great an authority as Baron Humboldt; but when the great 
exactness and care, manifest in the construction of the Mexi- 
can cycles is taken into consideration, it seems to me impos- 
sible, that in the use of the Lords of the Night, they should 
abruptly terminate a cycle with 360 revolutions, whose na- 
tural period of termination, is evidently 2340 days; for 13X 
20X9=2340. It is true,Baron Humboldt states, that the series 
of the Lords of the Night, were not used with the nemontemi 
or epaigomenes of the Mexican year; and in this I presume 
lies the error: for undoubtedly the cycles of 260 days con- 
stantly succeded each other, until the half century of 52 
years closed; without any regard of the nemontemi, which 
belong alone to the civil computation. 


I incline therefore to the opinion, that there has been some 
defect, in the information the Baron received from Gama's 
discovery, and believe that the Lords of the Night, were used 
in connexion with the cycles of 260 days, in order to throw 
them into the larger cycles of 2340 days, of which eight, 
with the addition of one of 260 days, constitute the cycle of 
52 years. 

1 might support this opinion with arguments drawn from 
other analogies of the Mexican astronomy, but am too fear- 
ful of expressing myself upon a subject, where all the know- 
ledge I possess, is drawn from the brief statement of Baron 
Humboldt. If what has been said, will induce a more rigor- 
ous examination of this third series, my purpose will be 

From what has been observed concerning the Mexican 
calendars, it is evident that they have been all constructed 
to complete or extend the cycle of 52 years, whose peculiar 
intercalation testifies, that the knowledge possessed by this 
people of the length of the tropical year, was surprisingly 
accurate. It is undeniable, at any rate, that their error was 
greater than 11' 12", but if we adopt the account derived 
from Gama; (Htt?nboldf, Res. i. 390,) it will follow, that 
they estimated the tropical year at SeS**- 5^- 46' 9"; which 
will be but 2' 39" different from the most accurate Eu- 
ropean observations, which state its length to be 2Q5^- 5^- 
48' 48". 

The Intercalation of thirteen days to 52 vague years, 
estimates the year to be 365 days, 12 hours; but it is more 
than probable, that the Mexicans ingeniously intercalated but 
twelve days and a halfio their cycle of 52 years, which will 
give a duration of 365''- 5'' 46' 9" to each year. In 
either case, the approximation to real time is surprising; and 
as the investigation is highly interesting, we will endeavour 
to establish the fact, that they intercalated but 12^ days. 

If the Mexican year was estimated at 365 days, 6 hours, it 
is apparent, that from the time their calendar was reformed 
at Tlalixco,* A. D. 1091, to the time when the Spaniards in- 
vaded Mexico, A. D. 1519, there must have been an error 
of more than three days in time. But from the calculations 
made by Gama upon eclipses, t and records of the days when 
the sun passes the zenith of Mexico, preserved in the Mexi- 

* This epoch was the foundation of the Mexican chronology, from which 
was counted all the events of their history, according to the number of cy- 
cles of 52 years, that had elapsed since that time; which was their first arri- 
val in Anahuac. 

t We may observe, that the Mexicans understood the causes of eclipses, 
as may be seen in the hieroglyphics published by Clavigero and Humboldt, 
where the disks of the sun and moon are projected on each other at the times 
of such phenomena. 


can hieroglyphic paintings, as well as upon remarkable events 
occurring during the time of the conquest, no such error of 
three days could be detected. 

Now as it does not appear in the Mexican history, that any 
reformation was made of their calendar since the memorable 
one at Tlalixco, and that the thirteen intercalary days were 
regularly added to the end of every cycle of 52 years, it will 
follow almost conclusively, since no error can be observed 
during the lapse of four centuries, that Gama was correct in 
his statement, that the Mexicans intercalated but twelve days 
and a half, at the close of their cycles of fifty-two years. 
This he thinks was accomplished in the following manner. 
He supposes the Secular Festival, every 52 years, was cele- 
brated day and night alternately; i. e. if the years of one cy- 
cle of 52 years began at midnight, the following cycle began 
at noon; and thus though nominally thirteen intercalary 
days were interposed between the two cycles, in reality there 
were but twelve and a half. 

This fact he considers may be deduced from the Spanish 
writers of the sixteenth century; but we are unacquainted 
with all his arguments upon this point. 

Baron Humboldt, from whom we have derived the fore- 
going information, {Res. i 391,) declares himself incompe- 
tent to decide positively on the fact of the intercalation of 
12§ days, from an ignorance of the Mexican language, in 
which tongue most of the authorities to which Gama refers 
are written. He therefore postpones the establishment of the 
point in question, until that astronomer's treatise upon Tol- 
teck and Mexican chronology be printed. But he passes a 
high encomium upon Gama's industry, perseverance, and ac- 
curacy in astronomical science, which indeed he had himself 
verified; and he further declares, that Gama's opinions ought 
to inspire great confidence; that he would never have lightly 
hazarded an hypothesis, had he not been led to it by a care- 
ful comparison of dates, and the study of hieroglyphic paint- 

Though there is every reason to believe, that Gama is cor- 
rect in his supposition, for he was not only an able astrono- 
mer, but well acquainted with the Mexican hieroglyphic 
paintings, as well as their language; yet we have circum- 
stantial evidence from another quarter, which seems to de- 
clare expressly that the Mexicans knew the correct length of 
the tropical year, to within a very small fraction. This in- 
formation, as we receive it at second hand, we shall relate in 
the words of Humboldt {Res. i. 395.) "On opening at 
Rome the Codex Borgianus of Veletri, I there found the cu- 


rious passage from which the Jesuit Fabrega concluded, that 
the Mexicans had knowledge of the real duration of the tro- 
pical year. Twenty cycles of 52 years, or 1040 years, are 
there indicated in four pages: at the end of this great period, 
we see the sign rabbit, tochtli, immediately precede among 
the hieroglyphics of the days, the sign bird, cozquauhtli; so 
that seven days are suppressed: viz. those of water, the dog, 
ape, grass, (jnalinalli) the reed, jaguar, and eagle. Fa- 
brega supposes in his manuscript commentary, that this omis- 
sion refers to a periodical reform of the Julian intercalation, 
because a substraction of seven days, at the end of a cycle of 
1040 years, reduces, by an ingenious method, a year of 
365.25 days, to a year of 365.243 days, which is only 1' 26"* 
greater, than the real mean year, as it is laid down in the ta- 
bles of Delambre." 

"After the examination of a great number of hieroglyphic 
paintings of the Mexicans, and having seen the extreme care 
with which they are executed in the minutest details, we can- 
not admit, that the omission of seven terms in a periodical 
series, is owing to mere chance. Fabrega's observation, with- 
out doubt, deserves notice here; not that it is probable, that a 
nation should in reality employ a reform of the calendar only 
after long periods of 1040 years, but because the manuscript 
of Veletri seems to prove, that its author was acquainted with 
the real duration of the year."t 

Thus we have shewn from two different sources of com- 
putation, with every appearance of truth, that the Toltecs or 
Mexicans, or from whomsoever their astronomical system 
was derived, did know previous to the Spanish conquest, the 

*If I am correct in my calculation, the Mexican year was somewhat lon- 
ger than stated by Baron Humboldt; or 1' 30" 2T", instead of 1' 26", as print- 
ed in the English translation. 

t While calculating tlie elements laid down by Humboldt from Fabrega as 
above quoted, I was struck with the following circumstances, which are deem- 
ed of sufficient importance to lay before the reader. Estimating the Mexi- 
can year at 365 days, 6 hours, as the intercalation of 13 days every 52 years 
will require, it will be seen, that the 6 hours of excess for each year of the 
period 1040 years described by Fabrega, will amount exactly to 260 days. 
Now as the period of 260 days, was an important one in the Mexican compu- 
tation, it occurred to me, that there might be a greater cycle recognised in 
their astronomical system than we were aware of, to which 260 days Avould 
be as an intercalation. On reducing the 1040 years to days, which amount 
to 379,600, exclusive of the 6 hours of annual excess, and dividing by the cy- 
cle of 260 days, it will be found that this cycle is contained 1460 times in 
1040 years: if to this we add the intercallary days, the number will be 1461 ; 
which is the number of the Sothaic period. 

This circumstance I think tends to prove, that the numbers 1460 and J 461, 
were not of accidental use among the Mexicans, as Humboldt has already 
supposed, on finding it in the number of half lunations or periods of 13 days, 
which compose the cycle of 52 years. {Humboldt, Res. i. 296, and ii. 226, for 
ohservation of Jomard.) 


true length of the tropical year to an immaterial fraction. 
The singular train of ideas to which this circumstance gives 
rise, we must defer investigating, until we have prepared our 
way by some examination of the astronomical systems of the 
eastern continent; when we shall be enabled to appreciate 
the Mexican calendars to much greater advantage. 

I am unacquainted with any division of time, analogous 
to the civil calendar of the Mexican year, which consisted of 
eighteen months, or rather periods of twenty days each. 
But however differently the nations of the eastern continent 
may now arrange their months, in comparison with those of 
the Mexicans, yet I think it not improbable, that anciently 
they did arrange them after a more analogous system. This 
may be inferred, from finding the week of five days in use 
among certain people of India, the Indian islands, &c., 
which as far as I have been able to examine, are very an- 
cient periods of time, not belonging to the calendar arrange- 
ments at present recognized by them. 

To exhibit this subject in its strongest light, we must re- 
peat, that the Mexican months of twenty days, were divided 
into four weeks of five days each, and on the first day of 
each week was held their market or fair. {ClavigerOf Hist. 
Mex. i. 335, Appendix.) 

As an analogous period of time, we observe, that in the 
institutes of Menu, {^Sir TVm. Joneses tvorks, vii. 296,) it 
is directed, "once in five nights, or at the close of every 
half month, let the king make a regulation for market prices 
in the presence of experienced men." 

If any thing be considered ambiguous in the above ex- 
pressions, it is completely elucidated by the following quo- 
tation from Raffles, {Hist. Java, i. 475,) confirmed by Craw- 
furd. (Lid. tdrchip. i. 2S9.) "The Javanese have a week 
oi five days, which is common throughout the country, and 
by which the markets are universally regulated; this week is 
by far the most ancient, as well as the most generally adopted 
among them." 

I know of no other people with whom this period is in 
use,* excepting those of Benin in Africa, which is thus de- 
scribed. (Mod. Univ. Hist. xiii. 292.) "The sabbath, or 
day of repose with the people of Benin, returns every fiftk 
day, which is celebrated as a festival, with sacrifices, offer- 
ings, and entertainments." 

It would be a curious matter to ascertain if possible, the 
evolution of these periods of five days among these different 

* Did the Chinese anciently reckon time also by periods of five days? 
Morrison, (Chinese Diet. i. 49.) says, they call the fifteenth night of the 
moon, «'third fifth." 


nations, and learn what greater periods they compose; which 
I entertain the hope, some reader of this page may be ena- 
bled to execute from a local opportunity. 

Of more doubtful inference we also observe the following 
peculiar expression in the Havamaal or sublime discourses 
of Odin. {MalleVs North. Jintiq. ii. 210.) "Peace among 
the perfidious continues for Jive nights to shine bright as a 
flame, but when the sixth night approaches, it waxes dim." 

Now if there was such a week in use, we can see the pro- 
priety in adopting the sentiment of Odin to the shortest 
acknowledged period of time, and which would be the na- 
tural thought of any person discoursing on such a subject; 
and if it is remembered, that the most approved theory sup- 
poses, that both the Edda and Odin himself came from 
Asia, where we have shewn the week of five days was in 
common use, there is no improbability of its having been 
thus carried to Scandinavia. 

It is also probable, that the Etruscans recognized periods 
of five days; for we find that after the death of Romulus, 
[Livy, lib. i. cap. xviii.) the senate were divided into bodies 
of ten members, who administered the government for five 
days at a time, in regular rotation for a whole year. This 
feature in the appointment of an inter-rex, was ever after 

We may also call to the reader's recollection, that the 
nones of the Roman months for eight out of the twelve, 
were on the fifth day. 

Almost all the nations of antiquity, reckoned their years 
to contain three hundred and sixty days, to which five 
epagomenes were added. 

An institution decidedly analogous to the astronomical 
calendar of the Mexicans, is to be found in the cycle of 
sixty years, used by the Hindus, Chinese, and the Indo- 
Chinese nations generally, for their chronological computa- 

To exhibit these features of resemblance, we shall throw 
into a table the cycle of sixty years as used by the Chinese; 
which is framed by the periodic alternation of two sets of 
characters, one called by them the ten stems, shih-kan, and 
the other, the twelve branches, te-che. {Morrison's View 
of China, 3.) These two series we shall represent, one by 
the Roman, the other by arithmetical numbers. 





























I 5 

I 7 

I 9 








II 6 


II 8 


II 10 








HI 7 


III 9 


HI 1 








IV 8 


iV 10 


IV a 








V 9 


V 1 


V 3 








VI 10 


VI 2 


VI 4 








VII 1 


VII 3 


VII 5 




















IX 3 


IX 5 


IX 7 








X 4 


X 6 


X 8 








XI 5 


XI 7 


XI 9 








XII 6 


XII 8 


XII 10 


I have thrown this table into form, by using the twelve 
branches as the first series, which more distinctly shews the 
five cycles of twelve years, of which this greater one is 
composed, and by which so many nations of Asia compute 
their time. These cycles of twelve years, are precisely 
analogous to the Tlalpilli, or cycles of thirteen years used 
by the Mexicans; and any one comparing the Mexican 
cycle (page 205,) with that of the Chinese, will at once per- 
ceive the great points of resemblance that characterize their 

This cycle of sixty years, or that of twelve, its fifth part, 
is in exclusive use from Hindostan to Japan, in estimating 
the chronology of their history; and I presume, there is lit- 
tle evidence wanting to prove, that it anciently extended all 
over Asia. In the course of time, and the revolutions of 
empires, many changes and modifications have occured, by 
which the peculiar composition of this cycle has been altered 
or mutilated, though it still preserves those features of iden- 
tity, by which it can be easily recognized. 

Some of the eastern nations, apply the names of the Zo- 
daical signs to their cycle of twelve years, [Raffles, Java, i. 
478,) which they at present do not understand as having 
any reference to the apparent motion of the sun. Among 
others, as the Japanese, Tartars, &c., the twelve years are 
known by the names of animals, whose character do not 


imply any astronomically significant use.* These different 
people when speaking of any event of past history, express 
themselves as in the following instance; [Jibul Ghazi, i. 
146 ) "Gengis Khan was born in the year of the Hegira 
559, called the Ho^, was proclaimed Khan in the same 
year of the Hog, and died in the 624th, which the Mongols 
call the Hen, having lived 65 years, &c. " 

We must observe, that there is a departure in the strict- 
ness of analogy, between the Mexican cycle and that of the 
Asiatic nations in their subdivisions; ibr the first divides 
into fourths, and the latter into fifths. This discrepancy 
which we think we shall be able to account for, at least in 
part, in the ensuing pages, is of no material importance, as 
affecting the general analogies of the two systems; and we 
should not have taken this notice of it, but to introduce the 
conjecture, that possibly some of the western Asiatic nations, 
did anciently divide the cycle of sixty years into fourths, or 
periods oi fifteen years, and from this source it became in- 
troduced into the Roman computation, as the Indiction; a 
period of time whose origin has so much puzzled legal anti- 

The only certain point in the history of the Indiction, I 
believe is, that it was never heard of until the seat of Roman 
empire was established at Constantinople; and there border- 
ing on Oriental kingdoms, whose computations were so much 
regulated by such cycles, the Romans became acquainted 
with the period, or else they invented it in imitation of the 
cycle of twelve years, which we have every reason to believe 
once prevailed all over the east. 

Though we have some important observations to make 
both upon the Mexican cycle of fifty-two years, and that of 
the Asiatics of sixty years, we must for a time omit their 
consideration, until we have brought the religious calendar 
and its analogies, to the same point where we now leave the 
civil computation: for as they both terminate in the same pe- 
riod or cycle of 52 years, our reasoning upon that cycle can 
then be more clearly understood. 

The religious calendar, as already described, page 206, was 
composed of small periods of thirteen days, twenty of which 
made the cycle of 260 days; and of these last periods, seven- 
ty-three made the great cycle of 52 years, or 18,980 days. 

* The names of the years among the Japanese and Tartars are as follow: 

1. the Rat. 7. the Horse. 

2. " "Ox. 8. " Sheep. 

3. " Tiger. 9. " Ape. 

4. " Hare. 10. « Hen 

5. " Dragon. 11. " Dog 

6. «« Serpent. 12. " Hog. 


What it was, that established the predilection for the pe- 
riod of thirteen days, as well as for the number thirteen^ 
which is involved with so much ingenuity into various cycles 
and combinations, belonging to their period of 52 years, is no 
easy matter to determine. The solution of this question has 
from a faint analogy, been referred to a rude attempt to di- 
vide the moon's revolutions into halves; but it seems an in- 
surmountable difficulty to reconcile this imperfect idea of a 
lunation, with the precise and accurate knowledge of celestial 
motions, they have displayed in every other part of their as- 
tronomic calendars. But as seme distinguished writers have 
expressed themselves favourable to such a conjecture, we shall 
produce the most direct analogies we have been able to dis- 
cover among the computations of other nations; for they are 
certainly analogies, whether they be half lunations or not. 

The Mexicans are supposed {Humboldt, Res. i. 295.) to 
have derived these periods from "the two states oi watching 
and sleep, that they considered characterised the revolution 
of the moon. And the relation observed between the periods 
of thirteen days, and the half of the time that the moon is 
visible before and after her opposition, has undoubtedly given 
to the ritual calendar, the name oi reckoning of the moon," 

The Hindoos, in both particulars, have periods analogous 
to those related above of the Mexicans; they speak of the 
bright and dark sides of the moon, which constitute the day 
and night of the pitris, the bright side being appointed for 
their labours, and the dark one for sleeping. {Maurice, 
Hist. Hind. i. 138.) 

A further analogy to the Mexican custom may be found in 
the Hindu calendar, (e/^5z«^. ^e,s. iii. 261,) in which the months 
are divided into two periods oi fifteen days ea.c\v; by which 
all their different festivals are regulated, in a manner very 
similar indeed to those of the Mexicans. 

Besides the Hindoos, many other eastern people divide the 
month into periods of fifteen days; such as the Burmas, 
Chinese, Japanese, Tartars, &c. , and I presume the Cantabri- 
ans of Spain; for it is said, {Laborde^s View of Spain, ii. 
383,) that they divided the month, into the ascending and 
descending moon. 

Though it is the general opinion, that these numbers fif- 
teen and thirteen, have their origin in half lunations, it seems 
to me an incredible supposition, when we consider the per- 
fection of their science in its other parts. A single twelve 
months experience would demonstrate the error, and if they 
were so careful in correcting their time, that six hours in. 


the whole year, were provided for by a special intercalation, 
it would be very extraordinary indeed, that a grosser error 
in every month was allowed to pass unheeded. Therefore, 
.1 cannot consider the periods of fifteen days, that are in use 
among various nations of Asia, or the thirteen days period of 
the Mexicans, to be half lunations, but that they are astro- 
nomical periods, artificially compounded in their cyclic sys- 
tems, to suit the intercalations of those tropical periods. 

Thus it seems to me, in every instance, that these small 
periods of days, have been established from a knowledge of 
the real length of the year, and to provide for a regular inter- 
calation of the hours, by which solar time exceeds that of 
the apparent year. Why these nations have selected those 
particular numbers we know not, but it is evident, that they 
bear this determinate proportion to the number of the years 
of their cycles. 

The first time in a series of years, that an intercalary day 
could be used, would be after the lapse of four years, or as 
expressed in the following table, for a period of CO years, &c. 

Intercalary Days. 


Intercalary Days. 


































&c. &c. 

Now if any people computed their time by a cycle of vague 
years, it will be seen by the foregoing table, which may be 
extended to any length, that an intercalation could be made 
according to any particular fancy of number, that either 
science or superstition might deem proper. Of these, the 
Mexicans have selected No. 13, and made their cycle to con- 
sist of 52 years. The Hindus, Chinese, &c., have. preferred 
No. 15, and proportionably thereto, a cycle of 60 years. 

That this is the true principle, by which these periods of 
thirteen and fifteen days, have been selected, I hold con- 
firmed by the exhibition we are now to make of the Persian 
intercalary period of 120 years, which moreover ofiers a 
stronger analogy in its entire systematic construction, with 
the Mexican cycle, than the Asiatic cycle of 60 years, which 
we have already used in our comparison. 

The ancient Persian year consisted of twelve months, each 
of thirty days; and five epagomenes, making a vague year of 
three hundred and sixty-five days. 


Each of the twelve months bore the name of a genius or 
subaltern deity; and each day of the month, was in like man- 
ner designated after thirty genii. Like the Mexican system, 
these thirty names of days were common to each month of 
the year; and further in analogy, among the names of the 
days were the twelve names of the genii, who presided over 
the months. On the day in each month, that bore the same 
name with the month, was the principal festival of that 
month celebrated. 

But the Persian year being thus only 365 days, it fell short 
of real time near six hours annually, which were not regard- 
ed until 120 vague years had elapsed, and the hours of excess 
had amounted to thirty days. They then intercalated that 
number of days, in a manner precisely analogous with the 
Mexican system, before commencing a new cycle. 

Thus not only an identity of origin may be seen in these 
two cyclic computations, but the proportions between the 
number of the years of the cycle, and the intercalary period, 
are adjusted on the same principle; so that the one consti- 
tutes the first, or smallest period of time, and the other the 
highest, or the most multiplied term of small periods. And 
it is also evident, that both systems have been most ingeni- 
ously framed, upon an exact knowledge of the length of the 
tropical year. 

To exhibit the close resemblance between the Mexican 
and Persian systems of computation, we beg leave with a 
little license, to throw them into a tabular form. 

The OiiAgt of the Mexicans, years 104 Persian period. years 120 

its half or period of 52 its half or cycle of 60 

the fourth of 52 (tlalpilli.) 13 1-5 of cycle of 60 years, 12 

Intercalary days for 52 years, days 13 Intercalary days for 120 

years, days 30 

Small periods of thirteen days, or Periods of thirty days, their 

lowest term of computation. lowest period of compu- 


The license we have claimed, is in the introduction of the 
cycle of sixty years, and its divisions, as a part of the Per- 
sian computation; and this we have no doubt is both correct 
and proper, for the systems are evidently the same. 

We think, also, that we can perceive the motive that in- 
fluenced the Persians to use the cycle of 120, rather than 
that of 60 years; which at first sight, seems to offer all the 
advantages of its double number; and we offer it as a proba- 
ble opinion, that the Persians did with this cycle of 120 
years, what the Mexicans did with their Old Age of 104 
years, or double period of 52 years: that is, they intercala- 
ted but tiuenty-nine days in 120 years, instead of thirty 


days, which was the nominal intercalation. In this manner 
the Mexicans nominally intercalated twenty-six days every 
104 years; but in reality only twenty-Jive. Unless this was 
originally the Persian system, I see no use in doubling the 
cycle of 60 years, which admits the intercalation of half 30, 
or 15 days, without fractions. But there are other conside- 
rations which we shall state confirming this supposition. 

We have observed in a former page, that the history of 
America constitutes an essential part of the history of the 
material world, as well as of mankind generally; and the 
mysteries that hang over these subjects, can only be eluci- 
dated, by considering them in their most extended relations 
with the other parts. We have just seen a most pointed re- 
semblance between the astronomical systems of Persia and 
Mexico, which at first sight, seems to involve the greatest em- 
barrassment in discovering the reasons of the analogy. We 
apprehend however there is no real difficulty to overcome, 
and we shall now lay before the reader the solution which 
we have presumed meets the case exactly. 

We have hitherto spoken of the Persian computation of 
time, as if alone peculiar to that most ancient people; but 
we do not think that originally this was the fact, but that 
they had retained in a greater degree than other nations of 
Asia, an essential part of an astronomical system, which 
originally was common to all postdiluvian nations; and of 
which traces are to be observed among all the oriental peo- 
ple, with whom the cycle of sixty years is in use. During 
the lapse of ages, the confusion of civil and foreign wars, 
and those multiplied causes of error that are to be found in 
the history ot all ancient kingdoms, we presume the dex- 
terous contrivance, of intercalating 29 days in 120 years, has 
been lost, and that other Asiatic nations than the Persians, 
seeing no advantage in the cycle of 120 years, permitted it 
to he neglected or forgotten. At the same time, they have 
altered their intercalations fi'om being cyclic, or after long 
intervals of time, to the one used by ourselves after every 
four years. But that originally, this period was 120 years 
among all these Asiatic nations, we deem to be established by 
the following considerations; which though seemingly a lit- 
tle out of place, we are forced to introduce in the present 
page, as illustrating, and as being illustrated by, the Mexi- 
can astronomical system. 

Among the various cycles used by ancient astronomers, is 
one consisting of 600 years; whose invention Josephus has 
with every probability, referred to the times preceding the 
deluge; but which in after times, may be considered as known 


among the Chaldeans, as their cycle called the neros. * The 
celebrated astronomer Cassini, was the first who paid any at- 
tention to the statement of Josephus; and on an examination 
of the period, found it a luni-solar cycle, evidently construct- 
ed upon a correct knowledge of the revolutions of the sun 
and moon. "He found, {Bailly^ Hist. Astron. i. 66,) 
that 7421 lunar revolutions of 29''' 12'»- 44' 3", amount to 
219,146^ days; and that this number of days, make 600 so- 
lar years of 365''- b^- 51' 36"; which differs by less than three 
minutes from the observations of the present day." 

Upon this cycle of 600 years, Bailly [Hlstoire de UAs- 
tron. i. 69,) makes the following reflections: "This period, 
this exact length of the year of 365''- S^'-Sl' 36", requires 
intercalations. The year proper, without doubt, consisted 
of twelve months of thirty days, with five days added to 
the end of the last month, according to the usages of all 
the eastern nations. But 600 years of 365 days make but 
219.000 days, while the period contains 219,1465. There 
were therefore 146 days added in some manner or other to 
the period. The most natural intercalation, is that of a day 
every four years, as is done in our bissextile years; an inter- 
calation of the greatest antiquity in China, among the Hin- 
dus; and we find traces of it likewise in Egypt. But the 
intercalation of a day every four years during 600 years, 
will make 150 days; whereas the period only contains 146 
such days. There is therefore an appearance, that every 150 
years they suppressed an intercalary day, or if we may use 
the term a bissextile year, as we ourselves do every 100 
years. These 150 years may have formed a period, which 
we may meet with elsewhere." 

It appears to me, however, that we are able to shew in what 
manner, the intercalations for this cycle of 600 years were 
made, which Bailly was unable to discover; and in a man- 
ner decidedly characterising the great perfection of astrono- 
mical science in the antediluvian ages; a fact, which that 
great and learned astronomer has the honour of having first 
demonstrated to the world, about fifty years ago. 

We consider, that the cycle of 600 years, was not divided 
into four periods of 150 years, as Bailly has conjectured, but 

* That the Neros was a period of 600 years, is testified by Syncellus, 
Abydenus, and Alexander Polyhistor. (Chronologie de Freret, 14. Jtiaurice, 
Anet. Hind. i. 299.) 

Pliny, {Chron. de Freret, 29,) says, Hipparchus published tables of the mo- 
tions of the sun and moon for 600 years; "utriusque sideris cursum in sex- 
centos annos praecinuit Hipparchus." He no doubt stole these calculations 
from the Chaldeans, whose astronomy he had examined; and, like a Greek, 
made them known as his own discovery. 


into five periods of 120 years; which division of time, the 
Persians and Chaldeans alone, appear to have retained in 
their cyclic computations. And one reason for making this 
peculiar division into fifths, appears to have been, that they 
might by a dexterous management analogous to the practice 
of the Mexicans, intercalate in the cycle of 600 years, 145 
days; or 29 days every 120 years, as conjectured page 217.* 
That the number 120, had in these very remote times, 
some intelligible and common use in chronology or astrono- 
my, may be inferred from several circumstances. Thus the 
Chaldean astrologers said, 120 sari had elapsed from the be- 
ginning of the world to the deluge of Xisthurus. {Freret, 
Chronol. 14.) We have already discoursed concerning the 
Persian period of 120 years; and we will further observe 
that the Bible itself, in the narration of antediluvian history, 
evidently uses this period of time, when it says, (Genesis, 
vi. 3.) "And the Lord said, my spirit shall not always! strive 
with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be one 
hundred and twenty years.^^ The force of this expres- 
sion, and its happy application to the event, which we sup- 
pose occured at the time this denunciation was made, will 
be at once perceived, when we observe, that the commence- 
ment of every great C3^cle among the more ancient nations, 

* Before we proceed further with this cycle, we think it necessary to shew, 
that the division of periods of time into fiftiis, is not an arbitrary conjec- 
ture to suit this emergency, but that many analogies directly support it. 
Thus the cycle of 60 years at present in use among the Hindus, Chinese, &c. 
is divided mio fmt periods of twelve years; which I consider a fraction of the 
great cycle of 600 years, divided by homogeneous numbers; and bearing no 
reference whatever to the revolution of the planet Jupiter, to whom the 
cycle of twelve years is commonly supposed to refer. 

We also find that^re calpas, or periods of twelve millions of years, consti- 
tute among the Hindus the period of creation; or sixty millions of years. 
By the same system, we observe the people of Thibet, the (Jreeks, &c., di- 
vided their period of creation, into ^ve ages. {Humboldt, Res. ii 31, 215.) 
We may also enumerate the^re elements of the Hindoos, Chinese, Japanese, 
&c.; perhaps Brahma's ^ue heads have some reference to this principle of di- 
viding by fifths, and his loss of one of them, may be solved by a knowledge 
of these facts. 

t Our common translation, in rendering the Hebrew Q 7I?) always, is not 
correct. The word generally means an indefinite, but not an infinite period 
of time. It is very commonly used to signify a dispensation, such as that of the 
Jews, which was not to last for ever. So with the Greek atuva. by which it 
is translated in the Septuagint Montanus and Tremellius, both render the 
Hebrew word by smculum, which never means an infinite time. Thomp- 
son in his translation of the Bible, expresses it, by "my breath (or spirit) 
must not continue in these men to this age,^^ &c., which I apprehend, conveys 
the idea of the Bible more correctly. 1 would translate the Hebrew word 
in this passage, by period or cycle; the commencement of which, I presume, 
the Antediluvians were celebrating, at the time the denunciation of God 
was made against them. 


was attended with the greatest manifestations of joy and 
mirth; and as is recorded of the ancient Persians, they ex- 
ultingly said, "this is the new day, of a new month, of a 
new year, of a new cycle, upon which every thing that de- 
pends on time should be renewed." {Hyde, Hist. Rel. 
Vet. Pers. 237.) If we can admit the not improbable 
supposition, that the antediluvians were celebrating in the 
manner and expression of the Persians, the commencement 
of a cycle of 600 or of 120 years, when Noah or some 
other prophet informed them of the coming destruction, we 
perceive how apposite the expression becomes; whereas 
\Vithout this explanation, it stands rather embarrassed by the 
precise, though unintelligible period of time allowed them.* 
But to return to the cycle of 600 years: If we are correct 
in the exhibition we have given of it, both as respects its 
division into five parts, or cycles of 120 years as retained 
by the Persians, and also that they intercalated but 29 days 
to every period of 120 years, it will follow, that the length 
of the tropical year was perfectly known before the deluge: 
for 600 vague years, amount to 219,000 days; and the inter- 
calation of 29 days every 120 years, adds 145 more, which 
will thus make the year 365 days, 5 hours, 4S seconds, or 
but 4S seconds less than the length of the year according 
to the latest observation of our own times: an error of but 
eight hours, for the whole period of 600 years. Of this 
circumstance they were probably aware, and provided for it 
in their greater cycles of 6,000, 30,000, or 36,000 years. 
And we further think, that we can now see for what pur- 
pose these immense cycles of years were composed; namely, 

"^Hyde relates from an Arabic author, (Ibn Mucfa,) the manner the an- 
cient Persians celebrated their JVomcwz; which though afterwards applied to 
every J^ew year''s day, I think belonged originally, to the commencement of 
the J^eros cycle only. It presents so curious an analogy to what we have 
conjectured on the antediluvian celebration, that I shall translate it for the 
benefit of English readers. 

"It was the custom of the Persians on these occasions, that some person 
of beautiful countenance who was appointed for this purpose, came by night 
to the palace, where he remained until the next morning; and as soon as the 
day shone forth, he came into the presence of the king, without asking any 
permission. When he had thus familiarly introduced himself, the king de- 
manded of him, from whence are you? whither are you going? and what is 
your name? for what purpose have you come hither? and what do you bring? 
To which he replied,! am Al Mansur, (the august,) and my name is Al-Mo- 
barek, {the blessed;) I have been sent hither from God, bringing the new 
year." After this followed some ceremonies of bringing in grain of va- 
rious kinds, eating, &c.; when it was joyfully said, "this is the new day, of 
the new month, &c." 

If we could suppose the prophet of God, who announced the impending 
deluge, to have come before some great antediluvian monarch, at the time 
he was expecting Al-Mobarek; it would be admirably in point, and render 
the divine admonition emphatic in the highest degree. 


that they answered the purposes of astronomical tables, 
upon which all the practical parts of their system of compu- 
tation were built, and which shewed in an ingenious man- 
ner, the extreme nicety to which such calculations might be 
brought. Thus fractions of lime almost insensible, by con- 
stantly accumulating, become at last marked periods, which 
they could provide for by intercalation. It was an after 
invention, to consider them as being real chronological com- 
putations. * 

We of course consider the astronomy of the Chaldeans, 
Persians, Hindus, Mexicans, &c., as systems built upon the 
principles of antediluvian science; which preserved by the 
family of Noah, became a common foundation to all future 
cyclic compulations. These principles have been partially 
modified among these diflferent people, from superstitious 
ideas, probably arising from conceits of the powers of par- 
ticular numbers: but which it is evident, bear the same 
ratio to one another in their combinations, as distinguish 
those, whose antiquity lead us to suppose them, the original 
constituents of the astronomical cycles of the antediluvian 

Before we conclude this chapter on Mexican astronomy, 
we have one circumstance to consider respecting the reli- 
gious calendar, which we could not previously discuss. 

It will be remembered, that the periods of thirteen days, 
by which this calendar was computed, were formed into 
cycles of 260 days, as we have observed page 206, and that 
sevenly-three cycles of 260 days, constitute the great cycle 
of 52 years. Our object in thus recapitulating matters al- 
read}' stated, is to call the attention to the apparent use of 

* We have some very plausible data to affirm this supposition in the case 
of the Hindu Yugs, the most notorious instance perhaps of an exaggerated 
chronology in national history. For Megasthenes {M Res.x. 118,) "a man 
of no ordinary abilities, who had spent the greatest part of his life in India 
in a public character, and was well acquainted with the chronological sys- 
tems of the Egyptians Chaldeans, and Jews; made particular inquiries into 
their history, and declares according to Clemens of Alexandria, that the 
Hindus and the Jews, were the only people who had a true idea of the crea- 
tion of the world, and the beginning of things; and we learn from him, 
that the history of the Hindus did not go back above 6'.i4J years from the 
invasion of India by Alexander. Manuscripts differ in this date, some stat- 
ing it 6042, or 60-12, others 5402." The true reading should probably be 
5178, according to Major Wilford. 

Megasthenes lived about 290 B. C. But the Hindu system of the Yugs 
had been as an astronomical theory, established at least a thousand years 
before that time: for Sir William Jones informs us, {Sir Wm. Jones'* works, 
vii. SO,) that the Vedas which contain the earliest account we have of the 
Yugas, were composed 1580 years, B. C. 


the number seventy-three.'* Can it be of fortuitous use, or 
has it a reference to the precession of the equinoxes, which 
is about 1° in 72 years? The evident use the Hindus have 
made of this number, induces us to think, that it must have 
some connexion with that knowledge, though now seemingly- 
unknown to them.t But that the cyle of 73 years, is in- 
tended to be understood as an entire period among the 
Mexicans, is most probable, from finding it is not divided 
into any parts, but embraces the whole cycle of 53 years. 
Time, industry, and opportunity, may bring all these things 
to light; and I sincerely trust, we shall realize the observa- 
tion of Humboldt, that "all we have hitherto learnt respect- 
ing the ancient state of the natives of the new continent, is 
nothing in comparison with the light that will be one day 
thrown on this subject, if we succeed in bringing together, 
the materials now scattered over both worlds, that have 
survived the ages of ignorance and barbarism." 

To this account of the Mexican astronomy, we shall add 
a description of the astronomical religious festival, which they 
celebrated at the end of every cycle of 52 years; and which 
is generally termed the secular festival. 

We must premise, that the Mexicans believed our world 
was periodically subjected to certain great physical convul- 
sions, that destroyed the human race with the exception of 
some two or three individuals, from whom would proceed 
again another race of mortals like themselves. It was also a 
part of their belief, that these periodical calamities always 
happened at the close of one of their cycles of 52 years; and 
as it was not known, when they might expect the recurrence 
of these awful calamities, that had four times previously des- 
troyed mankind, they saw every cycle of 52 years draw to 
its conclusion with apprehension and alarm. It was at this 
most anxious time, that the ceremonies of the secular festi- 
val commenced. On the last night of the cycle, [Clavig. 
Hist. Mex. ii. 92,) they extinguished the iires of all the tem- 
ples and houses, broke their vessels, earthen pots, and kitch- 
en utensils, preparing themselves in this manner for the end- 
ing of the world. The priests, clothed in various dresses 
and insignia of the gods, accompanied by a vast crowd of peo- 
ple, issued from the temple, and quitting the city directed 

* The Mexican year also contained "3 periods o{ five days, which we have 
already stated was the small divisions of the months. 

f There are frequent allusions to the number 72 or 73, among various ancient 
nations, either in their chronology or mythology Thus the Persians said 
there had been 72 Solymans. (Bailly, Letter to Voltaire, ii. 109.) The Greeks 
also said that Mercury had won in play from the moon the 72d part of 
each day of the year, for the accouchement of Rhea, &o. 


their march to a mountain about six n)iles distant. They re- 
guIateH their journey so that they might arrive at the moun- 
tain a little before midnight, upon whose top a fire was to 
be kindled, in case the time of their destruction had not com- 
pleted its terrible cycle, which would be determined at that 
moment of time. While the Mexican people were in this 
state of fearful suspense, the priests sacrificed a human victim 
on the top of the mountain, and upon his breast they rubbed 
two sticks together, until a fire was kindled which they in- 
creased to a great size, that all the country around might per- 
ceive the guarantee of the world's continuance, at least for 
another cycle of 52 years. 

From this sacred fire, portions were carried to all the houses 
and temples adjacent, for the renewal of their rites, or do- 
mestic uses. 

The ensuing thirteen days, were employed in replacing the 
furniture, dresses, &c. , which they had previously destroyed, 
and in rejoicing at the prospect of longer life. At this time, 
every thing that could amuse or gratify, was put under re- 
quisition. Games, dances, and feats of activity, were every 
where practised or exhibited. One game, as it is called by 
the Spanish writers, was exhibited at this time alone; and as 
a part of the secular festival, we shall describe it under its 
ajjpellation of game of the flyers. Having procured a tree of 
suitable size, they erected it in one of the public squares of 
the city: On its head or top, was adjusted a hollow woodea 
cap, sufficiently loose to turn around on the head of the mast 
or tree. To the cap, they attached a square wooden frame, 
by four ropes of a few feet in length. Through holes in this 
frame, passed four ropes, which were twisted thirteen times 
round the head of the tree, and to the loose ends of the ropes, 
four persons, disguised like eagles, herons, &c. attached 
themselves. Then springing off simultaneously, the ropes 
bf gan to untwist from the tree, and the hollow cap to turn 
round. The great end of this contrivance was, that the per- 
sons disguised as eagles, herons, &c. should thirteen times 
fly round the mast before they reached the ground; and the 
gume thus became emblematical of their cycle of 52 years; 
as 4X13=52. 

It is not improbable, from Dennon's travels in Egypt, {Jlt- 
las,plaie Ixiii.) that something analogous to this game, was 
in use among tFiat ancient people, though we have no rela- 
tion to confirm this conjecture. 

It is unnecessary to adduce instances of the manner, ia 
which the ancient nations of the eastern continent, celebrated 
the returns of their periodical cycles. Such epochs by very 


natural associations of ideas, would be attended with great 
festivals and rejoicings; a feeling which may indeed be mea- 
surably appreciated, by our own anniversary festivities on 
the recurrence of days interesting to us either as individuals, 
or as members of any political body. We may well suppose, 
that when religion and astronomy combined to render a day 
important after the revolution of many years, it would be 
hailed by great and extensive rejoicings, proportionate to its 
rare occurrence, or as expressed in the invitation to the secu- 
lar games of the Romans, men were called to attend a cele- 
bration, "that they had never seen before, nor would ever 
see again." 

It is most probable, that the Mexicans had arranged the 
starry heavens into constellations; the description of which 
would be of the utmost importance to us, in investigating the 
origin of that people. But I am afraid, this part of their as- 
tronomical system has been irretrievably lost. 

Humboldt, {Res. i. 180, 207,) however, seemingly men- 
tions manuscripts that describe or enumerate their constel- 
lations. From this observation, we can cherish a hope, 
they may yet be decyphered, and make us acquainted with 
this part of their antiquities; which will no doubt, throw much 
light upon their ancient history. 

The Mexicans do not appear to have been acquainted with 
astronomical instruments of any kind, unless Gama's suppo- 
sition be correct, that they used the linear gnomon. {Hum- 
boldt, Hes. ii. 135.) 

On the Religion of the Mexicans, Spc. 

Of all researches, that most effectually aid us to discover 
the origin of a nation or people, whose history is either un- 
known, or deeply involved in the obscurity of ancient times; 
none perhaps are attended with such important results, as the 
analysis of their theological dogmas, and their religious prac- 
tices. To such matters mankind adhere with the greatest 
tenacity, and which though both modified and corrupted in 
the revolutions of ages, still preserve features of their original 
construction, when language, arts, sciences, and political estab- 
lishments, no longer preserve distinct lineaments of their an- 
cient constitutions. 

This assertion none will deny, who have examined the 
mythologies of the aficient nations of Asia or Africa, or even 
that one, which classic Greece in a most confused system, has 
made familiar to all men of liberal education. 


Within the period of a half century, the Hterati of Britain 
and Hindostan, in an astonishing manner, have removed the 
vail that concealed the mysteries of ancient paganism, and 
have exposed to our eyes those physical allegories and his- 
toric allusions, that constituted in great part, the original ba- 
sis of the system. A thousand generations of men have 
passed away, foreign war and civil commotion have destroy- 
ed every ancient kingdom, and yet in despite of all these re- 
volutions of time and empire, and notwithstanding that strong 
spirit of allegorizing, more fatal to system than the two former 
combined; yet India still adheres to that paganism, which 
subverting the purity of the patriarchal worship, raised upon 
its ruins a monstrous system of perverted history and alle- 
gorical physics. By the practices of these living idolaters 
of Hindostan, we have not only been enabled to identify 
them with the idolaters of Phoenicia, Egypt, and Chaldea, 
but from them, we have received the key, that opens and de- 
velops the sj'stem common to all. 

As we consider it a matter fully determined, that the my- 
thology of Egypt, Chaldea, Hindostan, &c. , have all been 
based upon a system, which there can be but little doubt, 
was once common to all postdiluvian nations; we hold, that 
a most rigid test is thereby furnished, to judge of the anti- 
quity of the demi- civilized nations of America; whose my- 
thological figments and superstitions, can be brought into 
close comparison with those of the nations of antiquity, and 
according to the closeness of their analogy, we can with 
some plausibility, estimate the length of time, they have been 
separated from each other, and we particularly request the 
reader curious concerning the origin of the American nations, 
to bear these circumstances of comparison continually in 
mind during our present investigation. 

Our information concerning the belief of the nations of 
Anahuac respecting a future state, is but niengre. This being 
one of those subjects, which the conquerors of Mexico thought 
unworthy their examination, and consequently, we are only 
able to give an imperfect account of this part of their theology. 

The more civilized nations, considered the souls both of 
men and beasts to be immortal, as may be distinctly inferred 
from the ceremonies used at their funerals. 

According to Clavigero, [Hist. Mex. ii. 3,) the Mexicans 
distinguished three places, as being allotted for the reception 
of departed spirits. The souls of soldiers who died in battle, 
or in captivity among enemies, and those of women who had 
died in labour, went to the house of the Sun, where they led 
a life of endless delight. There every day at sun rising, 


they hailed that luminary with rejoicings, music and dancing 
and attended him to his meridian height, where they met 
with the souls of women, and with similar festivities accom- 
panied the sun to its setting. 

After living for four years in this manner, their spirits were 
supposed to animate clouds, birds of beautiful plumage, and 
of sweet song, but who always had the power to rise again to 
heaven whenever they pleased. As their aristocracy prevailed 
even in heaven, this vvas the condition of the great and noble. 
Inferior persons, animated weazles, beetles, and such other 

The souls of those that were drowned, or struck with light- 
ning, of those who had died by dropsy, tumors, casualties, 
and all other diseases, went along with the souls of children 
who had been sacrificpd or drowned in honor of Tlaloc, god 
of water, to a cool and delightful place called Tlalocan, where 
that god resided, and where they enjoyed delicious repasts, 
and every other kind of pleasure. 

The third place for the dead, was called Mictlan, or hell, 
which they considered was a place of utter darkness; in which 
a god and goddess reigned. They did not suppose that the 
souls underwent any other punishment there, than what they 
suffered from the darkness of their abode. Siguenza consid- 
ered the hell of the Mexicans, to have been situated in the 
northern parts of the earth. Clavigero thinks they placed it 
in the centre of the globe. 

There is nothing in this system that particularly requires 
our consideration, except to observe, that transmigration of 
soul vvas a doctrine distinctly recognized by them: a supersti- 
tion that has prevailed among the Egyptians, Hindus, Per- 
sians, Celts, &c., and which perhaps, owes its origin to some 
perverted ideas of man's probationary state in this life, which 
they have mingled with phenomena of the natural world, 
sufficiently evident to every moral observer. 

The Mexicans, {Clavig. Hist. Mex. ii. 2.) had some cor- 
rect ideas of a supreme, absolute, and independent being; 
whom they regarded with fear and adoration. They repre- 
sented him by no external form, because they believed him 
to be invisible; and spoke of him only by the name Teotl, 
or God. They applied to him epithets expressive of the 
greatness and power which they conceived him to possess; 
such as, IPALNEMOANi; he by whom we live, and Tloque 
Nahuaque; he who has all in himself. But their know- 
ledge and worship of this supreme being, was obscured and 
in a manner lost in the multitude of deities invented by 
their superstition. 


They believed in an evil spirit, inimical to mankind, whom 
they called, Tlacatecolototl, or rational owl; and said, 
that he often appeared to men, for the purpose of terrifying 
or doing them some injury. 

There seems to be a great deficiency in the Mexican his- 
torians, concerning the history of the evil principle, an im- 
portant part of their religious systemj which it is impossible 
for us to supply. 

Among the many deities worshipped by the Mexicans, were 
thirteen principal gods, in honor of whom they are said to 
have consecrated that number, but which I trust, we have 
rather shewn, to have had an astronomical signification and 
use. We shall endeavour to give a concise, yet accurate 
description of these deities, from the writings of Clavigero, 
and other Mexican historians. 

Tezatlipoca, was the principal deity worshipped in Mex- 
ico after the supreme god teotl, whom we have already 
mentioned. His name means Shining Mirror, from one 
that was afiixed to his image. He was the god of provi- 
dence, the soul of the world, the creator of heaven and earth, 
and master of all things. His image was that of a young 
man; to denote, that his power was not diminished by the 
course of time. It was believed, that he regarded the good 
or evil actions of men, and punished or rewarded them by a 
special providence. Stone seats were placed at the corners 
of the streets for him to rest upon when he thought proper, 
and upon which no Indian was ever permitted to sit. His 
image, made of teotl, {divine stone) a black and shining 
stone, was richly dressed. In his ears, were golden rings; 
and from the under lip, hung a crystal tube, within which 
was a green feather, or a turquoise stone. His hair was tied 
with a golden string, from the end of which hung a repre- 
sentation of the human ear, made of gold, upon which was 
painted an ascending smoke; by which design they denoted 
the prayers of the distressed. He had bracelets of gold upon 
his arms; and in his left hand, a golden fan, adorned with 
beautiful feathers. This fan was highly polished; and in it, 
as a mirror, they believed he saw every thing that hap- 
pened in the world. At other times, to denote his justice, 
they represented him sitting on a bench covered with red 
cloth, upon which were drawn the figures of skulls and other 
bones. A shield with four arrows was borne on the left 
arm, and the right was lifted up in the attitude of throwing 
a spear. 

Ometeuctli and omecihuatl, the first was a god, and 
the last a goddess, whom they believed dwelt in a magnificent 


city in the heavens, abounding with delights. There they 
watched over the world, and gave to mortals their wishes, 
the former to men and the latter to women. They had a tra- 
dition, that the goddess, after having had many children in 
heaven, at one time brought forth a knife of flint; which her 
children in a rage threw to the earth; from which sprang 
1600 heroes! These, knowing their high origin, and having 
no servants, (for all mankind had perished by a general ca- 
lamity) sent an embassy to their mother, to entreat her to 
grant them power to create men to serve them. The mother 
answered, that if they had had more exalted sentiments, they 
would have made themselves worthy to live with her eter- 
nally in heaven, but since they chose to abide upon the earth, 
she told them to go to Mictlanteuctli, god of hell, and ask 
of him one of the bones of those men who had last perished, 
which they were to sprinkle with their blood, and from it 
they would have a man and a woman, who would multiply 
the species. Xolotl, one of the heroes, went to hell, and 
got the bone; but from fear that Mictlanteuctli would repent 
giving it, (which he actually did,) made such precipitate 
haste, that he fell, and broke the bone into two unequal parts, 
which accounts for the difference in stature among men.* 
However, he retained the two pieces, and returned with them 
to his brothers, who put them in a vessel, and sprinkled them 
with blood, drawn from different parts of their bodies. On 
the fourth day, they beheld a boy; and continuing to sprinkle 
with blood for three days more, a girl was made. These 
were both consigned to the care of Xolotl, to be brought up, 
who fed them with the milk of thistles. From this cere- 
mony, they say, originated the practice of drawing blood 
from the different parts of the body; an act of devotion 
which constituted an essential part of the Mexican ritual. 

These divinities appear to have presided in an especial 
manner over all new born children. {Clavig. Hist. Mex. 
ii. 95, 96.) 

CiHUAcoHUATL, {woTuan serpent,) called also quilaztli, 
or tonacacihua, {woman of our flesh,) was considered by 
the Mexicans as the mother of the human race. {Clavig. 
Hist. Mex. ii. 8. Humboldt, Res. i. 195.) She is reported 
to have always borne twins. As we cannot pretend to give 
any original information concerning this goddess, we beg 
leave to introduce the following extract from Humboldt as 
above quoted. "The Mexicans considered her as the mo- 
ther of the human race; and after the god of the celestial 

* So translated, but I rather think it should be, for the difference of stature 
between men and women. 


paradise, Ometeiictli, she held the first rank among; the di- 
vinities of Anahuac; we see her always represented with a 
great serpent, which some of their paintings exhibit to us as 
a feather-headed snake cut in pieces by the great spirit 
Tezcatlipoca, or by the god Tonatiuh, a personification of the 
sun. These allegories remind us of the ancient traditions of 
Asia. In the ivoman and ser-perd of the Mexicans, we 
think we perceive the Eve of the Semetic nations; in the 
snake cut in pieces, the famous serpent Kaliya or Kalinaga 
conquered by Vishnu, when he took the form of Crishna. 
The Tonatiuh of the Mexicans, appears also to be identical 
with the Crishna of the Hindoos, recorded in the Bhagavata 
Purana, and with the Mithras of the Persians. The most 
ancient traditions of nations, go back to a state of things 
when the earth covered with bogs, was inhabited by snakes, 
and other animals of gigantic bulk. The beneficent lumi- 
nary, by drying up the soil, delivered the earth from these 
aquatic monsters." 

In describing a Mexican painting, Humboldt also observes 
in another page, {Res. i. 195.) "Behind the serpent who 
appears to be speaking to the goddess Cihuacohuatl, are two 
naked figures; they are of a different colour, and seem to be 
in the attitude of contending with each other. We might 
be led to suppose, that the two vases which we see at the 
bottom of the picture, one of which is overturned, is the 
cause of this contention. The serpent ivoman was consi- 
dered at Mexico, as the mother of two twin children, and 
these naked figures are perhaps her children; they remind 
us of the Cain and Abel of Hebrew tradition." 

As I cannot conceive of any time when serpents were so 
multiplied upon the earth, as to make a deliverance from 
them an epoch in mythological history, it is not easy to be- 
lieve that the Mexicans understood any such physical allu- 
sion as is hinted by Humboldt. I believe the connexion is 
with that moral serpent, whose history we so well know be- 
longs to that of our first parents.* 

The goddess Cihuacohuatl, had a male companion called 
TONACATEucTLi, lord of OUT flesh, but of whom we have 
no particulars to relate. 

ToNATRicLi and MEZTLi, wcrc the names of the sun and 
moon, both deified by the Mexicans, and other nations of 
Anahuac. They said, that after the regeneration and multi- 
plication of the human race, by the 1600 heroes, there was 

* The first woman, is by the Chinese also denominated shay neu, or ser- 
pent woman. (J\/o?r(son's Chinese Diet. i. 60.) No reason for this appellation 
is assigned bv the editor. 


no sun; for the one that formerly existed, was destroyed by 
the calamity we have just noticed, in which mankind per- 
ished. The heroes, therefore, assembled in Teotihuacan, 
around a great fire; and said to the men, that the first of 
them who would throw himself into the flames would have 
the glory to be transformed into a sun. One of the men, 
called Nanahuatzin, more intrepid than the rest, threw him- 
self into the flames, and descended to hell. During the time 
of his absence the heroes were betting, as to what moment, 
and in what part of the heavens, the sun would first appear: 
these bets, as soon as lost, were sacrificed; and consisted of 
quails, locusts, &c. 

At length the sun rose in that quarter, which, from that 
time, has been called the Levant, {or place of Rising — the 
East.) But he had scarcely risen above the horizon, before 
he stopped; which the heroes perceiving, sent to him to de- 
sire he would continue his course. The sun replied, he 
would not until he should see them all put to death. The 
heroes were no less enraged than terrified by that answer; 
and one of them taking his bow and three arrows, shot one 
at the sun; but the sun saved himself by stooping. After 
several arrows had been discharged without effect, the sun 
enraged, turned back one of those shot at him, and fixed it 
in the forehead of that hero who had first drawn his bow 
against him, and who instantly expired. 

The rest, intimidated by the fate of their brother, and un- 
able to cope with the sun, resolved to die by the hands of 
Xolotl; who, after killing his brothers, put an end to his own 
life. The heroes, before they died, left their clothes to their 
servants: and since the conquest by the Spaniards, certain 
ancient garments have been found, which were preserved by 
the Mexicans with extraordinary veneration, under a belief 
that they had them from those ancient heroes.* 

They told a similar fable of the origin of the moon. 
Another person at the same assemblage, follov/ing the ex- 
ample of Nanahuatzin, threw himself into the fire; but the 
flames being somewhat less fierce, he turned out less bright, 
and was transformed into the moon. 

To these two deities they consecrated the two celebrated 
temples of the plain of Teotihuacan, which we shall describe 
hereafter, but which it is supposed were erected by nations 
anterior to the Mexicans. 

* The Japanese according to Kajtnpher, {Hist. Japan, i. 207,) still preserve 
in some of tlieir temples; swords, arms, and other warlike instruments, 
which they consider to have belonged to a semi-divine race, that possessed 
their islands before the present race of men. 


QuETZALCoATL, {feathered serpent,) was among the 
Mexicans, and all other nations of Anahuac, the god of the 
air. He was said once to have been high priest of Tula* 
They figured him tall, big, of a fair complexion, open fore- 
head, large eyes, long black hair, and a thick beard. From 
a love of decency, he wore always a long robe, which is re- 
presented to have been spotted all over with red crosses, 
{Herrera, ii. 317.) He was so rich that he had palaces of 
gold, silver, and precious stones. He was thought to possess 
the greatest industry, and to have invented the art of melting 
metals and cutting gems. He was supposed to have had the 
most profound wisdom; which he displayed in the laws he 
left to mankind, and above all, the most rigid and exemplary 
manners. Whenever he intended promulgating a law to his 
kingdom, he ordered a crier to the top of the mountain Tza- 
tzitepec, (hill of shouting,) near the city of Tula, from whence 
his voice was heard for three hundred miles. In his time 
the corn grew so strong, that a single ear was a load for a 
man; gourds were as long as a man's body; it was unneces- 
sary to dye cotton, for it grew naturally of all colours; all their 
fruits were in the same abundance, and of an extraordinary 
size; then also, there was an incredible number of beautiful 
and sweet singing birds. In a word, the Mexicans imagined 
as much happiness under the priesthood of Quetzalcoatl, as 
the Greeks did under the reign of Saturn, whom this Mexi- 
can god also resembled by the exile he suffered. Amidst all 
this prosperity, Tezcatlipoca, their supreme but visible god, 
(we know not for what reason,) wishing to drive him from 
that country, appeared to him in the form of an old man, and 
told him it was the will of the gods that he should be taken 
to the kingdom of Tlapalla. At the same time he offered 
him a beverage, which was readily accepted, in hopes of ob- 
taining that immortality after which he aspired: he no soon- 
er drank it, than he felt himself so strongly inclined to go to 
Tlapalla, that he set out immediately, accompanied by many 
of his subjects. Near the city of Quauhtitlan, he felled a 
tree, with stones, which remained fixed in the trunk; and 
near Tlalnepantla, he laid his hand upon a stone, and left an 
impression, which the Mexicans showed to the Spaniards. t 
Upon his arrival at Cholula, the citizens detained him, and 
made him take the government of their city. He showed 

* Tula, was the country of the Toltecks before they emigrated to Anahuac; 
we presume therefore, that the Mexicans derived their knowledge of this 
deity from that ancient people. 

t This reminds us of the impressions of the feet of Budha, Hercules, and 
others in various parts of Asia; and of those observed in various parts of 
North America. See page 1 10. 


much aversion to cruelty, and could not bear the mention of 
war. To him, the Cholulans say, they owe their knowledge 
of melting metals, the laws by which they were afterwards 
governed, the rites and ceremonies of their religion, and as 
some say, the arrangement of their seasons and calendar. Af- 
ter being twenty years in Cholula, he resolved to pursue his 
journey to his imaginary kingdom of Tlapalla; carrying along 
with him four noble and virtuous youths: but on arriving at 
the maritime province of Coatzacoalco, he dismissed them, 
and desired them to assure the Cholulans, that he would re- 
turn to comfort and direct them. Some said that he sudden- 
ly disappeared, others that he died on the sea shore. But 
however that may be, Quetzalcoatl was consecrated as a god 
by the Toltecas of Cholula, and made chief guardian of their 
city, in the centre of which, in honour of him, they raised a 
great eminence on which was built a temple. Another emi- 
nence surmounted by a temple, was afterwards erected to 
him in Tula. From Cholula, his worship was spread over 
the country, where he was adored as the god of the air. 
He had temples in Mexico and elsewhere; and some nations 
even enemies of the Cholulans, had temples and priests dedi- 
cated to his worship in the city of Cholula, whither persons 
came from all parts of the land to pay their devotions, and 
fulfil their vows. 

His festivals were great and extraordinary, especially in 
Cholula. In the divine years,* they were preceded by a 
rigid fast of eighty days, and by dreadful austerities practised 
by the priests consecrated to his worship. The Mexicans 
said that Quetzalcoatl cleared the way for the god of water; 
because in these countries, rain is generally preceded by wind. 
{Clavig. Hist. Mex. ii. 11.) 

Acosta says the idolatrous image of this god, bore "a scythe 
in his hand," {Nat. and Mor. Hist. lib. 5, chap. 9,) which 
is also remarked by Humboldt [Res. ii. 22,) in his observa- 
tions on the five ages of the Mexicans. See also his plate of 
these Mexican cosmogonal fictions. 

The preceding description, which we have extracted from 
Clavigero, is confirmed in its details by Humboldt; both of 
whom direct our attention to incidents in the history of Quet- 
zalcoatl, analogous to those of Saturn. But Saturn is indu- 
bitably a personification of the patriarch Noah, as may be 
seen in the writings of Bochart, Bryant, Faber, &c. In like 
manner, the history of Quetzalcoatl, evidently refers to par- 
ticulars that characterize the legendary history of the great 

* Divine years, were every fourth year, and were those that bore the sign 
of the rabbit, see page 206. 


postdiluvian father among all the ancient nations of the eastern 
continent. This will be made more apparent by the ensuing 
statements, which seem to have been overlooked by Clavi- 
gero, Humboldt, and others, owing to some confusion of the 
early Spanish writers on Mexican antiquities. 

Humboldt {Researches, i. 95,) says, that a very remark- 
able tradition still exists among the Indians of Cholula, that 
the great pyramidal temple of that town, which we have de- 
scribed as being erected to the worship of Quetzalcoatl, was 
not destined originally for that service. This tradition, which 
has been recorded by a Dominican monk, who visited Cho- 
lula A. D. 1566, is thus related from his work by Humboldt. 
"Before the great inundation, which took place four thou- 
sand eight hundred years after the creation of the world, the 
country of Anahuac was inhabited by giants; all of whom 
either perished in the inundation, or were transformed into 
fishes, save seven, who fled into caverns. When the waters 
subsided, one of the giants called Xelhua, surnamed the archi- 
tect, went to Cholula, where as a memorial of the mountain 
Tlaloc, which had served for an asylum to himself and his six 
brethren, he built an artificial hill in form of a pyramid. He 
ordered bricks to be made in the province of Tlamanalco, at 
the foot of the Sierra of Cocotl; and to convey them to Cho- 
hula, he placed a file of men who passed them from hand to 
hand. The gods beheld with wrath this edifice, the top of 
which was to reach the clouds. Irritated at the daring at- 
tempt of Xelhua, they hurled fire on the pyramid. Numbers 
of the workmen perished; the work was discontinued, and 
the monument was afterwards dedicated to Quetzalcoatl the 
god of the air." From this tradition, which applies the his- 
tory of the catastrophe at Babel, to the pyramidal temple of 
Cholula, we learn, that though the more general tradition of 
the Cholulans, was, that their temple had been erected to 
Quetzalcoatl, [Clavigero, Hist. Mex. ii. 12, 13, 37; Acosta, 
Nat. and Mor. Hist. lib. 5 chap. 9;) yet another tradition, 
according to Rios and Humboldt, stated, that it was not origi- 
nally intended for the worship of that divinity. I think, 
however, there is but a nominal discrepancy between the two 
relations. What the Cholulans told Rios and Humboldt, 
means nothing more, than that the temple was built to com- 
memorate the escape of certain individuals from the deluge, 
and was not originally dedicated to the god of the air, which 
though an attribute of Quetzalcoatl, is very evidently a minor 
if not insignificant feature in his character, compared to those 
which constitute his resemblance to the patriarch Noah. 

Thus I apprehend, the two traditions may not only be 


made consistent with each other in their prominent features, 
but that the one supplies mattei', more abundantly confirming 
our general apprehension, of this deity having been a mytho- 
logical personification of the great diluvian patriarch. 

We may also state in further confirmation of these views, 
that it was the most ancient practice of the ancient pagans of 
Asia, to erect similar montiform temples, which it can now 
be scarely doubted, were commemorative of mount Ararat, 
and the regeneration of the human race. But of this subject 
we shall take more detailed views, when we treat of the 
Mexican temples. 

We have not yet done, however, with the resemblances 
that connect Quetzalcoatl with the history of Noah; for we 
shall find a pretty clear evidence of their identity, in a part 
of his Mexican worship, which seems not obscurely to re- 
present those rites commemorative of the events of the de- 
luge, which have been also observed among all the more 
celebrated nations of antiquity. 

The following narration is to be found in Acosta. [Nat. 
and Mor. Hist. lib. 5th chap. 30.) "There was at this 
temple of Quetzalcoatl at Cholula, a court of reasonable 
greatness, in the which they made great dances and pas- 
times, with games and comedies, on the festival days of this 
idol; for which purpose there was in the midst of this court, 
a theatre of thirty foot square, very finely decked and 
trimmed, the which they decked with flowers that day, 
with all the art and invention that might be; being environed 
round with arches of divers flowers and feathers, and in 
some places, there were tied many small birds, conies, and 
other tame beasts. After dinner, all the people assembled 
in this place, and the players presented themselves, and 
played comedies; some counterfeited the deaf and rheuma- 
tic, others the lame, some the blind and crippled, which 
came to seek for cure from the idol. The deaf answered 
confusedly, the rheumatic coughed, the lame halted, telling 
their miseries and griefs; wherewith they made the people to 
laugh; others came forth in the form, of little beasts, some 
attired like snails, others like toads, and some like li- 
zards; then meeting together, they told their offices, and 
every one retiring to his place they sounded on small 
flutes which was pleasant to hear. They likewise counter- 
feited butterflies, and small birds of divers colours, which 
were represented by the children who were sent to the tem- 
ple for education: then they went into a little forest, planted 
there for the purpose, where the priests of the temple drew 
them forth with instruments of music. In the mean time, 


they used many pleasant speeches, some in propounding, 
others in defending, wherewith the assistants were pleasantly 
entertained. This done, they made a mask or mumery 
with all these personages, and so the feast ended." 

It is impossible not to discern in this ceremony, a com- 
memoration of the ark; in which, men, beasts, birds, and 
reptiles, were collected together, under the auspices of 
Quetzalcoatl; whom we have attempted to prove was a per- 
sonification of Noah.* We also see another feature of the 
old arkite rites, in their going out of the temple represent- 
ing the cavity of the ark, with music and other marks of 
rejoicing, into a wood planted for the purpose; and which 
no doubt in these mysteries, represented the resettlement of 
the earth. Though we do not pretend to say, that these an- 
cient events of the history of mankind, were not materially 
confused, and these scenic representations misunderstood 
among the people of Anahuac, still we cannot help suggest- 
ing, that the unfortunate analogy which the Spaniards per- 
ceived in these mysteries, to their own dramatic performan- 
ces, has made them overlook the religious object of the cele- 
bration, and occasioned the neglect of other parts of these 
arkite rites, that would have even characterized them be- 
yond all dispute. To any one, however, conversant with the 
mythological systems of Egypt, Persia, or Hindostan, the 
intention is abundantly evident. But as it would be foreign 
to our disquisitions, to enter upon such details, we must only 
refer to writers upon this subject;t and proceed to describe 
other deities of the land of Anahuac. 

It may not be amiss to add, that there is no improbability 
in supposing some high priest of the god Quetzalcoatl, and 
who indeed had the practice of assuming his name, {Clavig. 
ii. 49,) may have had from lapse of time, some events of his 
history blended with the traditional history of the god. All 
that we contend for, is the origin of his mythological his- 
tory, and not to explain it in every particular of narration. 

Tlaloc or TLALOCATEUCTLI, {Master of Paradise,) 
was the god of water. The Mexicans and others, called 
him, fertiliser of the earth and protector of their temporal 
goods. They believed he resided upon the highest moun- 
tains, where the clouds are generally formed. His image 
was painted blue and green, to express the different colours 

* It will be remarked on recurring to our history of this divinity at page 
232, that he is said to have been a deified man, a peculiarity in the Mexican 
theogony sufficiently remarkable. 

t Bryant, Jinalyisis of And. Mythology, Faber, Origin of Pagan Idolatry, 
are the two wroi-ks most deserving examination. 


observed in water; and he held in his hand a rod of gold, 
of an undulated and pointed form to denote lightning. 

Tlalnc, was one of the divinities worshipped by the Tol- 
tecas, and it is said, that an image of him was destroyed by 
the Spaniards, which had been seated on Mount Tlaloc by 
that ancient people. 

He had a female companion, who was worshipped under 
the name of Chalchiuhcueje, as the goddess of water. She 
was also known by various other names, derived from the 
appearance or effects of water, which we do not think ne- 
cessary to enumerate. 

XiuHTEucTLi, {piaster of the year and of the grass,) 
was among these nations the god of fire. He was greatly 
reverenced in the Mexican empire: at their dinners they 
made an offering to him of the first morsel of their food, 
and the first draught of their drink, by throwing them both 
into the fire. 

At the festival held in honour of this god in the last 
month of the Mexican year, the fires of the temples and 
private houses were extinguished, and again lighted from 
one kindled before this idol. 

It has been a very general custom with pagan nations, 
to perform a similar annual festival; at which time their 
priests collected a tribute for the new fire. The Persians, 
the Celts, and the Sclavonian nations, all followed the prac- 
tice, which to a certain degree has been continued to our 
time. {Coll.Reh. Hib. iv. 346. Tooke^s Hist. Russia, i. 93.) 

The Peruvians, also had an analogous practice, as will be 
observed in our account of that people. 

Centeotl, {goddess of the earth and corn,) called like- 
wise TziNTEOTL, (original goddess,) Tonacajohua, {she 
ivho supports us,) and various other names, was particularly 
revered and honoured by the Totonacas, who esteemed her 
to be their chief protectress, and erected upon the top of a 
high mountain, a temple where she was served by a great 
number of priests, solely devoted to her worship. They 
held this goddess in great veneration, as they imagined she 
did not require human victims to be sacrificed to her, but 
was contented with doves, quails, &c. They expected she 
would ultimately deliver them from the cruel slavery they 
endured from the other gods, who required the sacrifice of 
so many human victims. At her temple among the Toto- 
nacas, was one of the most renowned oracles of the country. 

Baron Humboldt {Res. i. 221,) says, that Centeotl is the 
same with the Lakshmi of the Hindoos; but I can perceive 
no particular analogies that justify the comparison. 


^ MicTLANTEucTLi, the god of hell, and Mictlantihuatl, 
his female companion, were supposed by the Mexicans to 
dwell in a place of great darkness, in the bowels of the 
earth. Sacrifices and offerings were made to them by night, 
and the chief minister of their worship, was always dressed 
in black to perform the functions of his priesthood. 

HuiTziLiPocTLi OR MExiTLi, was the god of war, the 
deity most honoured by the Mexicans, and was considered 
their chief protector. His origin is thus described: There 
lived in Coatepec, a place near the ancient city of Tula, a 
woman called Coatlicue, who was extremely devoted to the 
service of the gods. One day, according to her custom as 
she was walking in the temple, she beheld descending in the 
air, a ball made of various feathers. She seized it and 
placed it in her bosom, intending afterwards to decorate the 
altar with the feathers; but on searching for them after her 
walk, to her great surprise it was not to be found, and her 
wonder was much increased when she perceived from that 
moment she was pregnant. Her pregnancy was discovered 
by her children, who, though they did not suspect their 
another's virtue, yet fearing the disgrace she would suffer in 
the opinion of the world, they determined to put her to 
death. She was in very great affliction at the thoughts of 
dying by the hands of her own children, when she heard a 
voice issue from her womb, saying, "be not afraid mother, 
I shall save you with the gi'eatest honour to yourself and 
glory to me." Her hard-hearted sons, guided and encou- 
raged by a sister, who had been most keenly bent upon the 
deed, were upon the point of executing their purpose, when 
Huitzilopoctli vvas born, with a shield in his left hand, a 
spear in his right, and a crest of green feathers on his head, 
the left leg adorned with feathers,* and his face, arms, and 
thighs, streaked with blue lines. As soon as he came into 
the world, he displayed a twisted club, and commanded one 
of his soldierst to kill his sister, as the one most guilty. 
He himself attacked the others with so much fury, that in 
spite of their efforts, arms, or intreaties, he killed them all, 
plundered their houses, and presented the spoils to his 
mother. Men were so terrified that they called him Tetza- 
huitl, terrour, and Tetzauhteotl, terrible god. This was 
the god, who, becoming the protector of the Mexicans, con- 
ducted them through their pilgrimage, and at length settled 
them on the place where Mexico was afterwards built. His 

* From this circumstance it is said, he derived his name. Huitzilin signi- 
fies the humming bird, and opnclilU, "the left,"i. e. his lelt leg was adorncrl 
with feathers of the humming bird. 

T We are not informed from whence these soldiers were derived. 


statue was of a gigantic size, in the posture of a man sitting 
on a bench of a blue colour, from the corners of which is- 
sued four large snakes: his forehead was blue, and his face 
covered with a golden mask, as was also the back of his 
head by another: upon his head was placed a crest, shaped 
like the beak of a bird: around his neck a collar, consistmg 
of ten figures of the human heart: in his right hand was a 
large blue twisted club; in his left a shield, on which five 
balls of feathers were arranged in the form of a cross; from 
the upper part of the shield rose a golden flag, with four ar- 
rows, which the Mexicans believed came from Heaven: his 
body was girt with a large golden snake, and adorned M^ith 
many small figures of various animals, made of gold and 
precious stones. Each of these figures, Clavigero says, had 
a particular meaning, but which he does not relate. To this 
deity were sacrificed more human victims than to any other 
god of Mexico. 

Huitzilopochtli had for a companion a younger brother, of 
whose generation no account is given. He was also a god 
of war, and was called tlacahuepancuexcotzin. He also 
had a lieutenant, named painalton, swift or hurried. 

Huitzilopochtli had a wife named Teoyamiqui, who con- 
ducted the souls of warriors, who died in defence of their 
gods, to the house of the Sun, or the elysium of the Mexicans. 

In the descriptions that have been given us of Huitzilo- 
pochtli, there does not seem to be, at first sight, any particu- 
lars that appear to merit comparison with the history of any 
pagan divinity of the ancient world. His miraculous con- 
ception and birth is partially analogous to that of Fo-hi, 
a deity of the Chinese, whose mother was impregnated by 
a rainbow;* but there does not appear any other features 
of resemblance between the two. His attributes as god of 
war, are such as might be naturally ascribed to any warlike 

But in a peculiar religious ceremony, that was celebrated 
to his honour by the Mexicans, it seems to me, that certain 
views are implied, that connect his history with some very 
ancient superstitions of the eastern continent, whose signifi- 
cation has never yet been explained. But as they are seem- 
ingly of the highest antiquity, and very widely adopted 
among the superstitions of difierent pagan nations, it is im- 
possible but that they imply some mysterious signification. 
Acosta says, {Nat. and Mor. Hist. lib. 5. chap. 24. Cla- 
vig. Hist. Mex. ii. 86,) that two days before the principal 

* Nana, the mother of the Phrygian god Attis, is also said to have been 
rendered pregnant of him, by putting in her bosom a pomegranate, which she 
had accidentally found. {Bryant, Jinal. And.MythoI. ii. 380.) 


festival of Huitzilopochtli, the sacred virgins, with grains 
of roasted maize, and seeds of beets, mixed together with 
honey, or the blood of children, made an idol of Huitzilo- 
pochtli, which they clothed with rich garments, and seated 
on a litter. On the morning of his festival, they carried 
this idol in procession around the city of Mexico, and then to 
the temple, where they had prepared a great quantity of the 
same paste or composition of seeds and blood, of which they 
had made the idol, and which they called the flesh and bones 
of Huitzilopochtli. After a certain consecration, the idol 
was sacrificed after the manner they sacrificed men; and his 
body was broken into small pieces, which together with 
those portions called his flesh and bones, were distributed 
among the people; who in the words of Acosta, "both men, 
women, and little children, received with such tears, fear, 
and reverence, as it was an admirable thing; saying they did 
eat the flesli and bones of God, wherewith they were griev- 
ed. Such as had any sick folks, demanded thereof for them, 
and carried it with groat reverence and devotion." 

That this extraordinary ceremony was of ancient Mexican 
use, and no invention of the Spanish priests, is evident from 
the account given of it by Acosta; who calls it, "a commu- 
nion, which the devil himself, the prince of pride, ordained 
in Mexico to counterfeit the holy sacrament." 

The same origin has been ascribed by Justin Martyr, 
{Jipol. Cap. xvi.) to a practice I consider analogous, though 
not so plainly described in the Mithraic mysteries. "Quod 
pravi dasmones imitati, etiam in Mithrae mysteriis fieri do- 
cuerunt. Scitis enim aut scire certe potestis in ejus qui 
initialur sacris, panem et aqux poculum, cum certis quibus- 
dam verbis proponi." 

Tertullian [De Praescrip. Hxret. 247,) also ascribes to 
the devil, the resemblance that he imagined between the 
mysteries of Mithra and Christianity; whom he moreover 
charges with imitating baptism, marking the foreheads of the 
initiated, and among other things, "celebrat et panis obla- 
tionem et imaginem resurectionis inducit," &c. 

But the practice was much more widely extended than 
these fathers imagined; for the old Sabeans {Stanley''s Hist. 
Philosophy, 799,) in their fifth month, "killed a new born 
infant to the honour of their gods, which they beat to pieces; 
then they take the flesh, and mix it with rye meal, saffron, 
ears of corn, mace, and little cakes like figs; they bake this 
composition in a new oven, and give it to the people of the 
congregation of Sammael all the year long." (I suppose ac- 
cording to their requirement.) "No woman or servant eats 
of it." 


The people of Nicaragua, [Herrera, iii. 301,) likewise 
used a consecrated bread, made of grains of maize and 
blood, drawn from their bodies; which they eat on certain 
religious occasions. Of this circumstance we shall again 
speak, in our chapter on Guatemala. 

The Peruvians, also, [Gcwcil, Roy Com. 258,) had a 
practice of similar import with the superstition of the Sa- 
beans, which we shall notice when treating of that people. 

The Druids, at certain seasons of the year, according to 
Du Paw, [Recherches sur les Jimeric. ii. 298,) consecrated 
bread and water, which after many ceremonies, ^^augusies 
et ennuyeuse,^' they distributed to the people. 

There is nothing in the history of Huitzilopochtli, that 
throws a direct light on this mysterious superstition; but I 
think we may not implausibly conjecture, that it was ori- 
ginally connected with those mythological stories, that re- 
present Osiris, Bacchus, Adonis or Thamuz, &c., to have 
been cut or torn to pieces, and their members scattered over 
the world; and it was, I presume, in commemoration of this 
event, that cakes of bread were used in the mysteries of an- 
tiquity; which were either moulded into the form of parts of 
the human body, or else were stamped with such figures. 

That something of this kind was practised, we learn from 
Clemens Alexandrinus, [Faber. Pag Idol. iii. 130,) who 
tells us, that the ark borne in the Eleusinian mysteries, con- 
tained "cakes moulded into the shape of navels, pomegra- 
nates, and the indecorous hieroglyphic of the female princi- 
ple." As Clement's works are out of my reach, I cannot 
say how much closer the analogies may be to the Mexican 

As I consider the ceremonies that belong to all the ancient 
mysteries of Eg3^pt, Phoenicia, Persia, &c., to have been 
originally the very same in purport; we may from the im- 
perfect descriptions of thern that have reached our time, 
comprehend partially their general intention; but as any de- 
scription of them, would make a very considerable digres- 
sion from the proper subject of our essay, we must refer our 
readers to the works of Bryant, and especially to the wri- 
tings of Faber on Pagan Idolatry. These writers have 
shewn almost to absolute demonstration, that the ancient 
mysteries, were commemorative of diluvian history and the 
regeneration of mankind; which they perhaps not only con- 
sidered physically, but also in a moral or spiritual sense. 
With these mysterious exhibitions, they also connected their 
physical allegories, their doctrines of transmigrations, and 
no doubt, certain corrupted traditions of the patriarchal wor- 


ship. Among this last, I consider the idea of the dilacera- 
tion of Orpheus, Bacchus, Osiris, &c. ; which, as far as I can 
perceive, offers no analogy to the history of the great dilu- 
vian patriarch, unless it be of a typical prospective nature, 
which it will very well bear, and thus connect the transmi- 
gration of the first man with Noah; and finally with him, 
who was expected to be the great deliverer of man, and the 
restorer of the golden age. Such traditions are not equivo- 
cally expressed in the writings of both the eastern and 
western mythologists, and are alluded to as all general 
readers know by Virgil in his fourth Eclogue. On this sub- 
ject, however, we shall speak more at large in the concluding 
pages of this essay. 

Besides these more important deities, others were wor- 
shipped by the Mexicans, whose history as far as we can per- 
ceive, do not merit any notice further than a bare enumera- 
tion; such were 

JoALTEucTLi [god of the night,) probably asynonymeof Meztli, 

or the moon. 
JoALTiciTL {nightly physician or guardian.^) goddess of cradles. 
Jacateuctli {god of commerce.) 
MixcoATL (goddess of hunting.) 
Opochtli {god of fishing.) 

HuiXTOCIHUATL {goddcSS of Sttlt.) 

TzAPOTLATENAN {goddess of physic.) 
IxTLiLTON {god of physic.) 
CoATLicuE {goddess of flowers.) 
Texcatzoncatl {god of drunkards.) 

Tlazolteotl or Ixcuinha {the goddess of pleasure and licentious- 
XiPE {god of the goldsmiths.) 
Nappateuctli {god of the mat weavers.) 
Omacatl {god of mirth.) 

Teteoinan {a deification of a daughter of a king of Colhuacan.) 
Ilmateuctli {goddess of old age.) 

Besides these more considerable gods, there were two hun- 
dred and sixty deities, to whom that number of days, consti- 
tuting a particular cycle were consecrated. 

I do not know whether it was these deities, whom the 
Mexicans worshipped in their houses, as their penates or la- 
res; of which fact Clavigero takes notice, when he relates, 
the kings and princes have six little idols always in their 
houses, the nobility four, and the common people two. {Hist. 
Mex. ii. 95.) 

* Humboldt calls her the "voluptuous goddess;" but we have no account 
whether she was worshipped with obscene rites. It is a curious fact, how- 
ever, that the planet Venus is called after the first name of this goddess. 
(Humboldt, Res, ii. 174.) 


It seems evident from the accounts given by Humboldt, 
that certain animals were aleo worshipped by the ancient Mex- 
icans. As I have no authorities of my own on this point, I 
beg leave to introduce the following extract from his Re- 
searches, ii. 48. 

"In the month of January, 1791, a tomb two metres long, 
and one broad, was discovered, filled with fine sand, and con- 
taining a well preserved skeleton of a carnivorous quadruped, 
which appeared to be the coyote or Mexican wolf Clay 
vases, and small well cast brass bells, were placed near the 
bones. This tomb was no doubt that of some sacred animal; 
for the writers of the sixteenth century inform us, that the 
Mexicans erected small chapels to the wolf, tiger, eagle, and 
snake; and what is more, the priests of the sacred wojf form- 
ed a particular congregation or convent. " 

The other nations of Anahuae, generally worshipped the 
same deities as those revered by the Mexicans, but sometimes 
under a different name, and with some variety in their ritual 
ceremonies. The god chiefly worshipped by the Mexicans, 
was HuitzilopochtU; by the Cholulans, Quetzalcoatl; by 
the Totonacas, Centeotl; and by the Ottomies, Mixcoatl. 
The Tlascalans, who emigrated to Anahuae together with the 
Mexicans, worshipped Huitzilopochtli, under the name of 
Camaxtle. We have no signification given us of this appel- 
lation, and it may be an epithet applied to this god, strictly 
Mexican in its etymology. But I cannot help thinking from 
this circumstance, as well as from various other considera- 
tions, that the religious systems of Anahuae when invaded 
by the Spaniards, were not of one similar purpose and design; 
but that they were compounded out of various theological 
superstitions that had prevailed in that country from imme- 
morial time: and that those nations who last emigrated to the 
country, mingled their traditional religion with those they 
found there before them, and hence confusion of character 
exists among them, and departures from their ancient mytho- 
logical peculiarities. 

I think this may be inferred, from the variety of deities 
that these nations chose as their protectors and guardians. 
The Mexicans, who were a warlike tribe, in worshipping 
Huitzilopoctli as their chief divinity, may have in this man- 
ner appropriated to his worship, certain rites that had be- 
longed to a deity peaceful and benignant. The Cholulans, 
among whom we consider the Toltecan rites were more 
especially preserved, worshipped Quetzalcoatl; who we can- 
not but consider as the more ancient deity of the land, as 
his character assimilates itself to that of Saturn, Osiris, and 


the most ancient divinities of the eastern continent. The 
Totonacas, in worshipping Centeotl the goddess of grain 
and agriculture, shew certainly a scheme very different 
from that of the Mexicans, and which it is not easy to 
imagine could have ever belonged to the same religious 
system, without admitting that a very great departure from 
original principles had taken place. This we may more 
readily believe, would happen with those who made the deity 
of war their chief god, than that others but of equal de- 
mi-civilization, had ceased to worship the god of battles, and 
directed their blameless adoration to an agricultural divinity. 
Under any circumstance of change, however, confusion of 
character and worship would take place, and that spirit of 
engrossing whatever seemed decorous or majestic in the wor- 
ship of any other divinity, to the service of the tutelary deity, 
would sooner or later induce the greatest departures from 
their original types, and attributes almost inconsistent with 
their natures, would be ascribed to these divinities. I must 
however leave the examination of this subject to others, 
which is both interesting and important, and well deserving 
of special inquiry. 

The Mexican divinities were represented by very numerous 
idolatrous images. They were generally made from clay, 
sometimes of stone or wood, and more rarely of gold, sil- 
ver, or precious stones. They also, anterior to the Spanish 
conquest, paid an idolatrous homage to the figure of the cross; 
but as we have no information on this practice beyond the 
mere fact, we shall postpone our comments until we treat of 
the people of Guatemala. 

It is not known in what manner the ancient Toltecas wor- 
shipped their deities, most probably, however, their rites 
were bloodless. It seems to be the prevailing opinion, that 
the cruel sacrifices of men, so common in Anahuac at the 
time of the conquest, arose from the oppression of the Mex- 
icans, who had subdued the land and established their fero- 
cious and sanguinary religion, wherever they introduced their 
colonies or garrisons. 

They sacrificed men in great numbers, chiefly by cutting 
open the breast of the living victim and tearingout the heart, 
which while quivering with life, they offered to their idols.* 

* It has been conjectured, that human sacrifices were not used by the Mex- 
icans, until after their settlement in Anahuac. To this opinion Humboldt 
seems to incline, though he admits the possibility of their having been an- 
ciently practised among them in their northern abode. 1 am of opinion the 
latter supposition is correct; for we find it related by Acosta, book 7, chap, 
5th, that when the Mexicans first arrived in Anahuac, a number of persons 
were found dead on the morning after a dispute had taken place among them, 
"whose breasts had been cut open, and their hearts torn out," no doubt a 
contrivance of the priests, who represented their deaths as an instance of 
divine displeasure. 


They drowneJ the victims offered to Tlaloc; and to Xiuh- 
teuctii, god of fire, they sacrificed men, by first throwing 
them alive into a large fire, whence they soon drew them out 
and cut open their breasts, as already stated. On other oc- 
casions, they shut the victims up in cells or caverns, and 
starved them to death. 

As the Mexicans were a very superstitious people, their 
calendar abounded with fasts, festivals, rejoicings, and bloody 
penances; but which we cannot undertake to describe, as our 
disquisitions are not directed to such an analysis, unless when 
apparently involving matters of some importance in detecting 
the origin of these people. We therefore must refer the 
reader curious in these particulars, to the works of Acosta, 
Clavigero, Humboldt, &c. But that our sketch of their re- 
ligion may not be altogether deficient on these subjects, we 
subjoin the following description of their manner of sacrificing 

The usual number of priests required at such times, were 
six; one of whom acted as sacrificer, and the others as his 
assistants. They carried the victim dressed in the insignia 
of the god to whom he was to be sacrificed,* around the city, 
and afterwards took him naked to the upper area of the tem- 
ple, when having pointed out to the bystanders the idol to 
whom the sacrifice was to be made, they extended the vic- 
tim on his back over a large convex stone, placed there for 
this purpose, to which he was firmly held down by the assist- 
ants. Then the chief priest, with a sharp flint cut open his 
breast, and tore out with his hand the heart, which whilst 
palpitating, he offered to the sun and then threw it at the 
feet of the idol. It was then taken up and presented to the 
image, and afterwards burned and the ashes preserved with 
great veneration. If the idol was hollow, it was usual to in- 
troduce the heart into its mouth with a gold spoon. After 
these ceremonies, the body was thrown down from the top 
of the temple, where it was taken up by the person who had 
offered the sacrifice and carried to his house, where certain 
portions were cooked for the eating of himself and friends. 
The remainder was burned, or carried to the royal menage 
ries, to feed the wild beasts. 

* It may not be undeserving of notice to mention, that the Mexicans adored 
the victim as they did the deity to whom he was to be offered as a sacrifice. 
Herrera(i;/is«. ^mer. iii. 207,) says expressly, "they also made gods of living 
men thus: they took a prisoner that was to be sacrificed, gave him the name 
of the idol he was to be offered to, put on him the same ornaments, and as 
long as that mockery lasted, which was sometimes a year, sometimes six 
months, &c., they paid him the same honor as they did to the idol; and when 
he went along the street, the people came out to adore him, and make their 
offerings, and brought out their children and sick persons, for him to cure and 
bless them," &c. 


At some festivals, the priests skinned the victims, and for 
several days made their appearance in public with the skins 
thrown over and fastened on their persons. This was done 
especially in the worship of Xipe, god of the goldsmiths. 

Besides human victims, the Mexicans also offered various 
animals to their gods; such as quails, falcons, rabbits, &c. 
Every day at sun rising, the priests made an offering to that 
luminary, of quails whose heads they cut off. This sacrifice 
was succeeded by the burning of certain gums, and with a 
loud accompaniment of musical instruments. 

They also offered their deities flowers, fruits, oblations of 
bread, and cooked dishes of meat, together with much burn- 
ing of copal and other gums, which were accompanied with 
prayers, prostrations, kneeling, fastings, making vows, &c. 

"But while they were thus barbarous and cruel to others, 
it is not wonderful," says Clavigero, "that they practised in- 
humanity towards themselves. Being accustomed to bloody 
sacrifices of their prisoners, they also failed not to shed abun- 
dance of their own blood, conceiving the streams which 
flowed from their victims insufficient to quench the diaboli- 
cal thirst of their gods. It makes one shudder to read the 
austerities which they exercised upon themselves, either in 
atonement of their transgressions, or in preparation for their 
festivals. They pierced themselves with the sharp spines of 
the aloe, and bored several parts of their bodies, particularly 
their ears, lips, tongues, and the fat of their arms and legs; 
through these holes, they introduced pieces of cane, at first 
of small size, and increased them in magnitude as they with- 
drew one to insert another piece," &c. 

Though the Mexicans seem to have exceeded all other 
people in their bloody sacrifices, yet in self-inflictions many pa- 
gans of antiquity fully equalled them. In this manner the 
priests of Baal lacerated their flesh ; ( 1 . Kings, xviii. 28, ) and the 
sanguinary chapter of the Calica Puran, {Jisiat. Res. v. 387,) 
expressly directs the Hindus, to draw their blood by self-la- 
ceration from the various parts of the body; a ceremony prac- 
tised by them with great devotion to this day. (^Ward's 
Vieiv of Hindoos y iii. 17, 18, &c.) 

Of the Mexican Priests. 

The priests constituted not only an important class, but 
also a numerous body of the Mexican population. Clavigero 
thinks, there could not have been less than a million of 
them throughout the Mexican empire, employed in the ser- 
vice of the various idols, worshipped by that people. 


The priests were divided into several different orders and 
degrees, which it is presumable, varied according to the 
practices of different nations. Each nation of which the 
empire was composed, retained their ecclesiastical polity ac- 
cording to ancient establishment, for their religion was not 
necessarily changed by the subjugation of the province to 
the dominion of the Mexicans; although they might be 
compelled to furnish these last with victims, for their spe- 
cial idolatrous service. 

Of the priests properly so called, there seems to have 
been two orders; which, after Humboldt, {Research, i. 228,) 
we may call priests, and monks: the first called by the 
Mexicans Teopixquis, and the latter Tlamacazques. 

The priests were governed by several different officers; 
the chief of whom were two high priests, to whom they 
gave the appellations of Teoteuctli, (divine lord,) and Hu- 
EiTOPiXQUi, (great priest.) These dignities were only con- 
ferred upon those distinguished for their birth, probity, and 
knowledge of religious rites and ceremonies. They were 
the diviners whom the kings consulted on the most impor- 
tant matters of state, and no war was undertaken without 
their approbation. They consecrated the king after his elec- 
tion, and officiated at the more solemn sacrifices. 

The dignity of high priest was conferred by election; but 
we are ignorant whether the electors were political or 
priestly. The high priests of Mexico were distinguished 
by a tuft of cotton, which hung from their breasts; and at 
the principal festivals by splendid habits, upon which were 
represented the insignia of the god whose festival they cele- 

Acting under the authority of the high priests, by whom 
they were also appointed, were various officers; such as a 
master of rites and ceremonies, superior general of the se- 
minaries, composer of hymns, &c., whom it would be unne- 
cessary to describe more particularly. To every division of 
the capital, and probably to every great city, was appointed 
a priest of superior rank, who acted as rector of that dis- 
trict, and ordered every act of religion which was to be 
performed within the bounds of his jurisdiction. All these 
rectors were subject to the authority of the superior gene- 
ral oy seminaries. 

All the offices of religion were divided among the priests; 
some were sacrificers, others diviners, some composers of 
hymns, and others choristers, who sung at particular hours 
both of the day and night. Some priests kept the temple 
clean, some took care of the altars; others were employed 


in the instruction of youth, others in observing the calendar, 
ordering of festivals, and care of the mythological paintings. 

The dress of the Mexican priests was in no manner dif- 
ferent from that of the people in general, except a black 
cotton mantle, which they wore as a vail upon their heads. 

They observed many fasts, and lived in great austerity of 
life, seldom or never tasting intoxicating liquors, and ab- 
staining from all commerce with their wives, when employ- 
ed in their religious duties. 

The office of priest, among the Mexicans was not neces- 
sarily perpetual; though some dedicated their whole lives to 
this function. Others engaged themselves only for a certain 
time, after which they again followed secular employments. 
Nor was this practice confined to men alone; women often 
engaged themselves under similar vows, and performed al- 
most every office of men but that of sacrificing, from which 
they were excluded. They were not, however, eligible to 
the higher dignities of the priesthood. 

The TIamacazques, or monks and nuns, were celibates of 
either sex, who devoted themselves to the worship of parti- 
cular gods; of which those of Quetzalcoatl, were the most 
remarkable. According to Clavigero, they lived in monas- 
teries, each sex apart, and their life was uncommonly rigid 
and austere. It would seem, that these celibates were dedi- 
cated to the idol by their parents, from infancy; but I pre- 
sume they had the power to leave the monastery if they 
chose, when arrived at mature age. The superiors of these 
monasteries bore the same name as the god. 

The monks of Tezcatlipoca, did not live together, but 
each one had his own habitation. 

The monks of Centeotl, among the Totonacas, were re- 
quired to be above sixty years of age, previous to their ad- 
mission in the monastery. Their number was fixed, and 
when one died another was received in his place. They 
lived, says Clavigero, "in great retirement and austerity; 
and their life, excepting their superstition and vanity, was 
perfectly unimpeachable." 

The priests and monks were supported by revenues al- 
lotted to the support of the temples, and by lands cultivated 
for their maintenance. This income, in addition to the 
offerings of individuals, was not only sufficient for their sup- 
port, but an overplus was accumulated, which was distri- 
buted among the indigent laity.* 

* Cortez, in his letters to Charles 3th, (Humboldt, Pol. Ess. ii. 127,) ob- 
serves, that there were many beggars in the streets of Cholula, "who^'asked 
alms from the rich in the streets and market places, as is done in Spain and 
other civilived countries, " 


There is nothing particularly remarkable in the history of 
the Mexican priests and their monks and nuns. Among all 
idolatrous nations, though the general practice may have 
been different, yet continence and chastity have been always 
honoured, and those pagans who did not make religion sub- 
servient to their sensuality, have sought for purification of 
soul in austerities of every kind. Even among the lewd 
Syrians, the priests at times emasculated themselves, cer- 
tainly not for debauchery, as is most strangely charged upon 
them by various writers. 

Persons of either sex devoted to a life of religious celiba- 
cy, were to be found among all ancient nations, and the 
practice is yet followed extensively in eastern Asia. 

Tertulian informs us, that among the worshippers of Mith- 
ras in his time, were celibates of both sexes, "Mithra habet 
et virgines, habet et continentes.'^ {Hyde, Rel. Vet. Pers. 

A profession of celibacy in convents, either of males or 
females, is common among the people of Siam, Pegu, Laos, 
Japan, &c., which they can renounce at any time, their vows 
not binding them for life. 

In the Canary islands, [Glas, Hist. Canaries, 69,) at the 
time of their discovery, were found convents of religious 

Of the Mexican Temples. 

Among the most curious particulars of Mexican antiqui- 
ties, were their idolatrous temples, which cost great labour 
and trouble in their erection; as may be seen from the fal- 
lowing descriptions. 

The great temple of Mexico, which occupied the centre 
of the city, was surrounded by a wall, enclosing a square 
space well paved with stone, which Cortez affirms, would 
have contained five hundred houses. This wall was built of 
stone and lime, very thick, about eight feet high, and orna- 
mented with many stone figures of serpents, from which 
circumstance, it derived its name Coatepantli, or wall of 
serpents. There were four gates through this wall, one 
opposed to each of the cardinal points of the compass, and 
over each gate was an arsenal, containing a large supply of 
military weapons, and warlike equipments. Besides the 
principal temple, there were within the great area, accord- 
ing to Clavigero, forty smaller temples consecrated to va- 
rious deities, several colleges of priests, and some semina- 
ries for children. 

The great temple, was an immense square mound of earth 


and stones, so constructed as to represent a truncated pyra- 
mid with five stories or bodies; i. e. each of the upper bo- 
dies occupied a smaller space than the one immediately be- 
neath, so that there was a space around the base of each 
body of five or six feet in width, whereon persons might 
walk round each of the stories. 

The upper body was flat on the top, on which the temples 
proper were built, and other appurtenances of their worship 
were placed. The steps by which they ascended to the up- 
per area, were not carried directly from the bottom to the 
top, but reached only from body to body, and were so con- 
trived, that any one ascending to the top of the mound, had 
to walk four times round the whole mound, before he at- 
tained the summit. [Clavigero, Hist. Mex. ii. 31.) The 
mound was faced with stone, and its dimensions according 
to the best authorities, were 320 feet square at the base, and 
120 feet high. {Gomara, in Purchas, iii. 1133. Humboldt, 
Pol. Essay, ii. 15.) 

Though Clavigero asserts, there were two towers erected on 
the upper stage, he admits, that there is some difficulty in 
ascertaining the precise truth respecting the fact. I shall 
therefore venture to differ from his conjectures on this par- 
ticular, and follow the account of Bernal Dias; [Conq. of 
Mex. 146, 148,) who says, there was but one tower, which 
appears to me also to be the relation of Gomara, {Purchas 
Pilgrims, u\. 1133,) if rightly translated. With this ex- 
ception, Clavigero's account I presume is correct; for what 
he says of one tower or chapel being dedicated to Huitzilo- 
pochtli, and the other to Tezcatlipoca, is in effect the same 
with the account of Bernal Dias, who says, that in the one 
tower he describes, were two highly adorned altars, one 
dedicated to each of the above deities, and over which their 
idolatrous images were placed. 

Before the tower or sanctuary, according to Clavigero, 
were two stone stoves of the height of a man, in the shape 
of the pyx. In these were maintained perpetual fires, and 
with whose extinguishment the Mexicans apprehended the 
greatest calamities. 

On the upper stage, but close to its edge, was that large 
convex stone upon which they extended their human vic- 
tims, which were sacrificed in the manner already noted. 

The principle strikingly evident in the construction of 
this temple, is the same with that of the oldest building re- 
corded in history: to wit, the tower of Babel, which, with 
Bochart, {Phaleg. chap, ix.) I consider was that described 
by Herodotus and Diodorus Siculus, as the temple of Jupiter 


Belus. ''Credo earn turrim post dispersationem diu stetisse, 
adeoque illam esse turrim qure Belo deinceps consecrata est, 
quam multis describit Herodotus lib. i." 

The temple of Belus was at its base, a square of a furlong 
on each side, and consisted of eight towers or bodies ap- 
pearing to be built one above the other. The ascent to the 
top was by stairs on the outside, formed by a sloping line 
from the bottom to the top, passing eight times round, so as 
to exhibit the appearance of eight towers. In these different 
towers or bodies, were many rooms and apartments devoted 
to idolatrous and astronomical uses. 

In this temple two distinct deities were worshipped; one the 
supreme God of Heaven, while Belus was the delegated god 
upon earth. {Herodotus, lib. i. clxxxi, &c. ) 

These particulars of idolatrous worship, complete the per- 
fect analogy that exists between the Mexican and Babylo- 
nian temples: for the American people worshipped in like 
manner two deities as we have already stated, one being the 
god of war and protector of Mexico, the other the supreme 
god Tezcatlipoca. 

It is almost needless to add to this description the con- 
firmatory declaration of Baron Humboldt, who in various 
parts of his valuable writings, calls the attention of his 
readers to these evident analogies. It will be sufficient for 
the present, to produce the following quotation. "It is im- 
possible to read the descriptions, which Herodotus and Dio- 
dorus Siculus have left us of the temple of Jupiter Belus, 
without being struck with the resemblance of that Babylo- 
nian monument, to the teocallis (temples) of the Mexicans." 
{Humboldt, Res. i. 82.) The chapter from whence this ex- 
tract is made, is one of great interest, containing descriptions 
of other pyramidal temples, yet existing in the kingdom of 
Mexico, and notices of several remarkable features of their 
construction, resembling ancient monuments of the eastern 
continent; which as far as the nature of our essay will jus- 
tify we shall introduce, that our readers may have every 
opportunity of judging of the character of these curious 
monuments of ancient Anahuac. 

"At the period when the Mexicans or Aztecs, one of the 
seven tribes of the Nahuatlacks took possession in the year 
A. D. 1190, of the equinoctial region of new Spain, they 
already found the pyramidal monuments of Teotihuacan, 
of Cholula, and of Papantla. They attributed these great 
edifices to the Toltecas, a powerful and civilized nation who 
inhabited Mexico five hundred years earlier, who made use 
of hieroglyphical characters, who computed the year more 


precisely, and had a more exact chronology, than the greater 
part of the people of tlie old continent. The Aztecs knew 
not with certainty what tribes had inhabited the country be- 
fore the Toltecas, and consequently, the belief that the tem- 
ples of Teotihuacan and of Cholula were the work of the 
Toltecks, was assigning them the highest antiquity they could 
conceive. It is however possible, that they might have been 
constructed before the invasion of the Toltecks, that is be- 
fore the year 648, of the vulgar era."* {Humboldt, Res. 
i. 82.) 

With this introduction, which happily connects, in a few 
words, the doubtful history of the origin of these monuments 
with the chronological epochs of Mexican history, we shall 
now proceed to describe as briefly as possible, the pyramidal 
temples to which he has alluded. 

The most ancient, as well as the largest of these pyramidal 
temples, is that of Cholula, which we have already noticed 
was dedicated to Quetzalcoatl the god of the air. It consists 
of four stories, all of equal height, and appears to have been 
constructed exactly in the direction of the four cardinal 
points; but as the edges of the stories are not very distinct, 
it is difficult to ascertain exactly their primitive direction. 
Its perpendicular height is 177 feet, and each side of its 
base 1,423 feet: its base is therefore twice as broad as the 
largest Egyptian pyramid, but its height is little more than 
that of the third, or pyramid of Mycerinus. 

It is composed of unbaked brick,! alternating with layers 
of clay; and in its interior, as in other teocallis, there are 
considerable cavities, which were discovered a few years be- 
fore Humboldt's visit to Mexico on cutting a road through 
the lower stage or body of this monument. From this cir- 
cumstance, a square room was discovered in the interior of 
the pyramid, built of stone, and supported by beams made 
of cypress. In this chamber were found two skeletons, 
some idols of basalt, and a great number of vases curiously 
painted and varnished. It is said there was no entrance to 
this room, which would imply, that the skeletons were of 
persons who had been enclosed there when the pyramid was 
built. {Humboldt, Res. i. 88.) 

The two pyramids of Teotihuacan, are situated eight 
leagues N. E. of Mexico, and were formerly consecrated 

* Siguenza, an eminent Mexican antiquarian, considered the pyramids of 
Teotihuacan to have been built by the Olmecks; a race, of whose emigra- 
tion to Anahuac we have no account. (Clavigero, Hist. Mexico, i. 117, note.) 

t Humboldt, (Res. i. 106.) considers it possible, that the bricks may have 
been slightly burned, and that the humidity of the air may have rendered 
them friable. 


according to Mexican tradition, to the sun and moon. They 
were composed of clay mixed with small stones; and then 
coated with a thick wall of porous amygdaloid. Traces of 
a coat of mortar of lime, may be seen covering the stones on 
the outside. The Indian tradition says, they are hollow, a 
fact however which has not been yet verified. Originally 
they consisted of four stories, of which but three are now 
discernible. The height of the pyramid of the sun, in its 
present state is 180 feet, with a base of 682 feet. The py- 
ramid of the moon, is 36 feet less in height, and its base 
much smaller than that of the sun. 

Around these pyramids, which stand in a plain called 
Micoatl, or road of the dead, are several hundred small 
pyramids, laid off in streets, in exact lines from N. to S., 
and from E. to W., which it is certain enough, designated 
the burying places of the chiefs of tribes. This circum- 
stance, so analogous with the disposition of the small pyra- 
mids around those of Memphis, induces Humbolt to ex- 
claim, ''what analogies with the monuments of the old con- 
tinent! and this Tolteck people, who on arriving in the se- 
venth century on Mexican soil, constructed on a uniform 
plan several of those colossal monuments; those truncated 
pyramids divided by layers like the temple of Belus at 
Babylon, whence did they take the model of these edifices? 
Were they of Mongol race? did they descend from a com- 
mon stock with the Chinese, the Hiong-nu, and the Japa- 
nese?" [Humboldt, Pol. Essay, ii. 45.) 

We purposely omit the description of the pyramid of Pa- 
pantla, which was of similar construction but much smaller, 
and built of hewn stone; as well as any description of the 
numerous small temples of the Mexicans, which were com- 
posed of a small single mound with the steps leading di- 
rectly to the top. 

The prejudice of considering the Tolteck or Mexican na- 
tions, to have emigrated to America from Asia in compara- 
tively modern times, is the only circumstance that embar- 
rasses the curious fact, that these American temples have 
been constructed upon the plan of the tower of Babel. But 
why may we not assign to this western continent, at least a 
part of its population immediately derived from the plain of 
Shinar; whence, as we are assured in the Scriptures, man- 
kind were scattered ^ ^abroad upon the face of all the 
earth,^' and which as far as I can perceive, is a supposition 
not more improbable, than that they arrived in this continent 
at, a latter period? 

There can be little doubt, that the pyi-amidal style of tem- 


ple-building, is the most ancient recorded in the history of 
idolatrous worship. It is not only to be observed in the 
antiquities of the early civilized nations of Asia, but it has 
from peculiar circumstances, continued among those nations, 
who from various physical causes, have been secluded from 
a general intercourse with their fellow men. As there are 
circumstances connected with these pyramidal or montiform 
temples, of an entirely arbitrary character, we cannot consi- 
der the uniform resemblance they bear to each other, as 
having been fortuitous, but on the contrary, that they have 
been derived from one type, which I think will be eventually 
shewn, was that tower of Babel,* from whence mankind 
were dispersed over the earth. Bui before we venture to 
speculate upon this subject, it will be proper to shew how 
far we are supported by facts. 

In travelling over those countries in which the first post 
diluvian monarchies were erected, we shall find these great 
pyramidal mounds still remaining, where cities have disap- 
peared, and where their names have even been forgotten. 
Thus Sir R. K. Porter, {Travels in Persia, &c., ii. 280,) 
observes, "immense pyramidal piles seem to be the peculiar 
marks, by which we may discover at least the sites of the 
earliest settlements of mankind." Similar observations 
have been made by Buckingham, [Travels in Messopota- 
mia,) and Keppel {Travels, &c., i 274, 288, 290, &c.) 
frequently describes the ruins of large mounds in this most 
anciently settled part of the earth. 

The ancient idolatrous worship in high places, so well 
known in the history of the Jews, testifies to the same anti- 
quity of idolatrous practice. Where hills or mountains 
were conveniently situated, they were no doubt made use of 
for such purposes; but in plains or level countries, they 
erected their montiform temples by human labour. Num- 
bers of these mounds are yet to be seen in Syria. Volney 
{Travels in Egypt and Syria, ii, 165,) observed many in 
the Pachalic of Aleppo, one of which he describes as being 
1400 feet in circumference, and 100 in height. 

The most ancient pyramids of Egypt at Sakara, Salahaye, 
&c. , {Norden, Travels, i. 148, plate 65. Ld. Sandwich's, 
Tour, 461,) consisting of four or five stages or bodies, are 
on the same plan with the Babylonian temple. And even 

* By this we are not to be understood as asserting, the tower of Babel was 
a model which they simply undertook to imitate, but that the continuance of 
those peculiar views, that originally led to the erection of that montiform 
temple, had influenced men elsewhere to make similar temples. Yet even 
of the very tower of Babel, we have shewn the Tolteck nations had preserv- 
ed a remembrance. 


the pyramids of Memphis or Gize, though to a certain de- 
gree departing from this original plan of construction, are 
nevertheless instances in point. In the Egpytian temples, 
Bruce (Travels^ i. 127,) remarked the truncated pyramidal 
style, which may be verified by an examination of the draw- 
ings of Luxor, Apollinopolis or Etfu, Philoe, &c. as repre- 
sented by various travellers in Egypt. 

It may be said that these Egyptian pyramids are tombs, 
which we do not dispute, at least in part, believing with 
Faber, [Origin of Idol. iii. 297, &c.) that they were my- 
thological tombs, which constituted the first departure from 
the original montiform temple; a further departure may 
have made them real tombs for kings and priests, as was 
also partially done by the Mexicans. 

Kaempher {Hist. Japan, i. 32,) describes the temple of 
Puka-thon in Siam, to be a pyramid divided into four stories, 
one built over the other, and leaving a space around the base 
of each story whereon persons might walk. Instead of being 
flat on the top, it terminates in a lofty spire, whicli, howe- 
ver, is an immaterial variation: around its base are the 
dwellings of the priests. 

The temples of Godama, (Biidha,) among the Burmas, 
are of the same style and character. Dr. Buchannan [Jisiat. 
Res. vi. 293,) describes them, as being built sometimes of 
solid brick work, at other times liollow, placed on prodi- 
gious elevated terraces, and raised from three to five hun- 
dred feet in height. The bases of these immense pyramidal 
temples, are frequently surrounded by a double row of small 
pyramids, as may be seen in Symes' Embassy to Ava, ii. 
Q2; plate 3. 

We shall not stop to notice instances less conspicuous in 
India, or China. The pyramids of Tanjore and Deogur of 
the first named, are well known;* and all writers mention 
the mound of fifty feet high, which is an essential part of 
the annual agricultural festival of the latter. The Scythians 
{Herod Melp. ii. 235,) erected mounds of wood, which we 
suppose, were similar to the one built by Atilla, which Gib- 
bon {Decline, &c. v. 44,) says, was three hundred feet 

In the larger islands of the Pacific ocean, the morals of the 
natives have a similar pyramidal character. Cook {Second 
Voy. ii- 567,) describes the moral of Oberea, as a "prodigious 
pile of stone, two hundred and sixty-seven feet in length, and 

* Mr. Burrow {A&iat. Res ii. 477,) also makes mention of the ruins of a 
large pyramidal building in Hadjipore, which he compares to the pyramid of 
Dashour in Ejypt. This instance seems little known. 


eighty-seven wide at the base. It is raised by flights of steps 
to the height of forty-four feet, narrowing gradually till they 
end in a small entablature, &c. This work being solid, and 
without a cavity, will last as long as the island itself, and no 
time that will not equally afiect the island can destroy it." 
Other and similar monuments at Otaheite, the Sandwich, 
Friendly islands. &c., may be seen described in Cook's third 
voyage, iii 6; Voy. N. Hem. i. 262, 313, 318; Missionary 
Voy. 279, &c. 

We shall merely add to the descriptions already given, the 
fact that numerous small artificial mounds are found among all 
the ruder nations of the world; which in all probability have 
been partly raised for similar purposes. See article Taph, 
Tuph, &c., Bryant, Anal. Anct. Myth. i. 93,449, ii. 54, &c. 
Small temples on the Mexican plan, with stairs on the out- 
side, are still erected in the kingdom of Nepal. {Asiat. Res. 
ii. 310.) To the same purpose, at least in part, we ascribe 
many of those mounds found in our western country; 
which we shall hereafter describe more particularly in ano- 
ther chapter. 

In the preceding brief description of idolatrous temples 
both of ancient and modern times, we consider that we have 
exhibited the fact, that they are decidedly constructed upon 
the pyramidal type, which some perhaps might suppose would 
be the most probable shape they would assume among all na- 
tions, whose civilization had not attained to a certain degree 
of perfection. But the ancient Chaldeans, Egyptians, and 
Hindoos were highly civilized; and even the Mexicans can 
hardly be considered a rude nation: yet why have they wor- 
shipped their gods either on mountain tops, or erected vast 
mounds near their habitations, whereon they could perform 
their idolatrous rites'* Whence that singular attachment to 
worship on high places, that so frequently appears in the 
history of the defections of the Jewish nation, so that even 
Solomon after building the magnificent temple at Jerusalem, 
yet in a latter year of his life built a high place for Che- 
mosh? (1. Kings, "SA. 7.) 

But it is evident from the mythological histories of anti- 
quity, that there was an object especially significant in these 
montiform temples, which I cannot but consider has been 
fairly developed by the ingenious researches of Bryant, Fa- 
her, and the members of that illustrious society of Calcutta, 
whose investigations have thrown so much light on the early 
history of mankind. 

On referring to the history of the confusion at Babel, we 
find that all mankind, then dwelling together as one large 


family in the plain of Shinar, undertook to erect a stupendous 
building, whose exact purpose we cannot directly ascertain 
from the sacred records. But it is evident it must have been 
undertaken upon some defined and intelligible principle, or 
else men would not have wasted their time and labour upon 
a work of such magnitude. We can hardly doubt, but that 
it was connected with that incipient system of idolatry, which 
was afterwards developed in Chaldea, Egypt, Persia, &c., to 
that astonishing degree, that in less than five hundred years 
after the dispersion, when the call of Abraham took place, 
it would seem that the knowledge and worship of the true 
God had been so entirely corrupted, that a new revelation to 
that patriarch was made; and it is not equivocally stated, that 
his family also, were idolaters like the rest of the world. 
{Joshua, xxiv. 2.) 

As the history of the tower of Babel is so intimately con- 
nected with our present investigation, and as it will be found 
to give a solution to some other subjects of apparently great 
obscurity, we shall now proceed to introduce the learned and 
ingenious opinion of Faber, which happily explains the 
object of that erection, and the commencement of pagan 
idolatry; whose apparent mysteries have been so ingeniously 
explained by Bryant and himself 

Mr. Faber considers that the ark in which Noah and his 
family were preserved from the awful destruction that over- 
whelmed the antediluvian world, continued for some time on 
mount Ararat, the habitation of the patriarch and family. As 
his posterity increased in numbers around this mountain, the 
ark would be ever before them to remind them of their 
fathers' wonderful preservation, and the consequent regene- 
ration of the human family, in which his immediate descen- 
dants must have experienced no ordinary emotions. It would 
require too much of our time to detail all the matters of lo- 
cal interest connecting the history of mount Ararat, the 
ark, and the regeneration of mankind together in this 
most interesting locality. It must be sufficient for us to re- 
mark, that here also the worship of the true God, according 
to the rites he had revealed to Noah, was practised under 
that probationary system to which, as a free agent, God has 
universally subjected mankind. Here also were preserved 
to a greater or less degree, a knowledge of antediluvian arts 
and sciences, which were to serve useful purposes in the re- 
novated world. In fine, as Faber has well expressed it, the 
ark was a microcosm, a little world, containing every thing 
interesting in the early history of mankind. 

After the death of Noah and his three sons, Mr. Faber 


supposes mankind to have journeyed from Ararat to the plain 
of Shinar, especially under the guidance of Nimrod and the 
family of Cush. Even at this early time, they had to a cer- 
tain degree corrupted the religion of their forefathers; which 
I think it not improbable, had been hastened by certain spe- 
culative opinions of the antediluvian infidels, which either his- 
torically or unheedingly had been imparted to them by the 
relations and communications of those, who had been ac- 
quainted with such things before the flood. But however 
this may have been, Mr. Faber supposes, that when they ar- 
rived at the plains of Babylon, they presently undertook the 
erection of the tower mentioned in the Bible, as a symbolic 
representation of that mountain upon which the ark first rest- 
ed; and which most probably, had coincided geographically 
with the garden of Eden, and the paradise of our first parents; 
a circumstance that has not been overlooked in the mytho- 
logical figments of antiquity. 

As the tower was not completed, at least at this time, for 
mankind were interrupted in the work, and dispersed over 
the earth, and as we have no history coeval with these times, 
we can only conjecture from mythological traditions of much 
later date, and when the departure from the worship of the 
true God had been almost carried to its greatest extent, that 
men intended here to represent scenically, yet religiously, 
the events of the diluvian history, blended with those specu- 
lative opinions they appear to have imbibed at a very early 
period, concerning periodic destructions of the world, and re- 
generations of mankind. These they may have erroneously 
inferred from the history of the primitive fall of man and his 
expulsion from Eden; from the destruction of the antediluvian 
world by the flood; and by a prospective view of that final 
consummation of all things, when man should regain that 
blissful state, from which he had fallen through the artifices 
of the tempter. But without going further into this investi- 
gation at present, I think it evident from the various autho- 
rities produced by Faber, {Origin of Pag. Idol. ii. 193, &c.) 
that the tower or Babel was a symbolic representation of 
mount Ararat; and a confirming proof of the correctness of 
his theory, will be found in the tradition of the Cholulans 
concerning the history of the erection of their montiform 
temple; a circumstance with which Faber appears to have 
been entirely unacquainted. Though we have previously 
related that tradition, we deem it too important, as throwing 
light upon a subject connected with the history of man, to be 
omitted at the present time. That tradition relates, that after 
a universal deluge, in which the human race had been des- 


troyed with the exception of seven individuals, who had saved 
themselves in a cavern on mount Tlaloc, that Xelhua, one of 
these persons, (giants) surnamed the architect, went to Cho- 
lula, where "«* a memorial of the mount Tlaloc, lohich 
had served as an asylum to himself and his six brethren, 
he built an artificial hill in the form of a pyramid. 
The gods beheld with wrath this edifice the top of which 
was to reach the clouds, and hurling fire on it, destroj'^ed 
many of the workmen, and caused the work to be discon- 
tinued."* {Humboldt, Res. i. 96.) 

In this tradition, in which the history of the tower of Ba- 
bel is applied to the pyramid of Cholula, we have its object 
most distinctly stated, and in a manner which establishes the 
authenticity of the tradition, as being original and not derived 
from the Spanish priests, who were not only ignorant of any 
such system as that developed by Faber, but who would never 
have instructed the natives, that seven persons instead of 
eight survived the flood, or that the displeasure of the gods 
was ever manifested on the pyramid of Cholula. 

Thus we think, that the antiquities of Mexico have thrown 
an important light upon the ancient history of the world, and 
have at least in this one particular, given a firmer basis to 
those theories, which explain so many important features in 
the moral history of man, and enable us to comprehend some 
of the mysteries and allegories of ancient paganism, which 
at one time entirely overshadowed the earth. As the re- 
searches of learned men have abundantly shewn that the 
principles of idolatrous worship originated at that early period 
of time when all mankind were living together as one fam- 
ily or nation, what so probable, nay, what other model could 
they have followed, in constructing their temples after the 
dispersion from Babel, but that tower which was essentially 
connected with their idolatrous system; and which we have 
indeed proved, has been assumed as the model of religious 
buildings, all over the earth? 

It may be possibly insisted, that according to our views 
the pyramidal style of temple building should be more uni- 

*"Rios, to prove the high antiquity of this fable of Xelhua, observes, that 
it was contained in a hymn which the Cholulans sung at their festivals, danc- 
ing round the temple, (teocalli) and that this hymn, began with the words, 
Tuianian hululaez, which are words belonging to no dialect at present known 
in Mexico. In every part of the globe, on the ridge of the Cordilleras, as 
well as in the isle of Samothrace in the Egean sea, fragments of primitive 
languages are preserved in religious rites." ;,Humboldt as quoted in the text.) 
Of this nature were the words conx, om, pax, used in the mysteries of Eleu- 
sis, which have been found in the Sanscrit, and explained As. Res v. 300. 
For a most extraordinary preservation of Chaldee words in the Druidical 
mysteries, see Faber, Orig. Idol, lit, 170. 


versal than we have proved to be the case. To this objection 
we beg leave to answer, that we have produced but a few of the 
instances we might have done, had we deemed it proper. 
But we have alone contended, that the moat ancient artifi- 
cial temples were of this construction; not denying the cor- 
ruption of the ancient idolatry itself, which as it lost sight of 
the worship of the true God, in like manner forgot its own 
original constitution, and departed to a very great degree from 
its scenical representations- We may also add, that the temple 
properly speaking, was situated on the pyramidal mound, and 
that when the symbolic meaning of the mound was lost, it 
might seem an excessive labour to construct these imitative 
mountains, without discerning their object, and which re- 
moved the temple, upon which all the ornamental decorations 
of art were displayed to an inconvenient distance, besides cir- 
cumscribing them in magnitude. For neither an extensive, 
nor perhaps even a marble temple at all, could be erected on 
an artificial mound; whose want of solidity may be estimated 
by the almost impossible attempt, of building an ordinary 
house upon what is called made ground, without its walls 
giving way. 

Of the Cosmogonal and Traditional History of the Mex- 

The Spanish authors who have written upon Mexican an- 
tiquities, have not related to us the peculiar opinions of the 
Mexicans concering the origin of the material world; or 
whether they thought it to have been eternal: but they all 
remark, that like various Asiatic nations, the Mexicans con- 
sidered the history of the world to have been divided into 
four or five great periods, analogous to the Yiigs of the Hin- 
doos; or to the more commonly known Jiges of ancient 

Thus they said, that four times previous to the present 
age the sun had been destroyed, and that all mankind, with 
the exception of two or three individuals, had perished in 
certain universal catastrophes of nature. From the persons 
thus preserved, the world had been replenished with inhabi- 
tants five several times, while as many difierent suns had 
risen to illuminate the renovated world. 

The first sun or age of the Mexicans, was called tlato- 
NATiuH, or age of the earth, which lasted according to 
Mexican manuscripts consulted by Humboldt, [Res. ii. 19,) 
5206 years, and according to Clavigero, {Hist. Mex. i. 329,) 
until the ruin of the gianis, and the great earthquakes. But 


Humboldt asserts, it was terminated by a universal famine, 
and its consequent desolation, from which but two men and 
one woman escaped, who became the parents of those who 
lived during the second age. 

The second sun or age was called tletonatiuh, or age 
of fire, vvhich lasted 4S04 years. It was terminated by a 
very great conflagration, which consumed every animal but 
the birds, who flying upwards in the air avoided its fury. 
But one man and woman were preserved from the univer- 
sal destruction by hiding themselves in the recesses of a ca- 

The third sun, ehecatonatiuh, the age of wind or air, 
continued 4010 years, and was terminated by hurricanes; 
which is said, if rightly deciphered, to have destroyed the 
human, race excepting two men, who were saved in a cavern 
as in the preceding catastrophe. 

The fourth sun, atonatiuh, or age of water, continued 
400S years, and was terminated by a deluge, which destroyed 
mankind to Ihe exception of one man and his wife, who 
saved themselves in a canoe from the destruction of the wa- 
ters. These individuals are known by the names of Coxcox, 
and his wife Xochiquetzal; and from them are descended the 
present race of men. 

Upon these suns or ages, Humboldt {Res. ii. 25,) makes 
the following observation: ''If the duration of the Mexican 
Jour sitns, were longer by three years; and if for the num- 
bers 5206, 4804, 4010, and 4008 years, the numbers 5206, 
4807, 4009, and 4009, were substituted, we might suppose, 
that these cycles originated from a knowledge of the lunar 
period of nineteen years. But whatever be their real ori- 
gin, it does not appear less certain that they are fictions of 
astronomical mythology, modified either by an obscure re- 
membrance of some great revolution which our planet has 
undergone, or according to the physical and geological hy- 
pothesis," &c. 

The very near approximation of these numbers, to those 
arising from a multiplication of the cycle of nineteen years, 
can hardl)^ be considered fortuitous. But we feel ourselves 
unable to enter upon a further astronomical discussion, 
where we not only are entirely deficient in materials, but it 
is even necessary that the duration of these periods be de- 
termined; for there is a discrepancy between them as given 
by Humboldt, and as related by Mexican writings of great 
authority; as may be seen in Humboldt, Res. ii. 28. 

The analogy which these suns offer to the Yugs of the 
Hindus, and to the poetical ages of the Greeks, is too evi- 


dent to require any comment. The system is of the jsjreatest 
antiquity, and has been widely extended. The Persians, 
the most ancient of postdiluvian nations, also recognise the 
division. {Bailly, Hist. Astron. i. 108.) The people of 
Thibet, and other nations of the east, &c. 

It is not clearly expressed by any of the Mexican histo- 
rians accessible to me, whether their cosmogonal revolutions 
are four or five; i. e. whether the fifth sun, which is the pre- 
sent one, is the reappearance of the tlatonatiuh or age of 
the earth, or really a fifth period of time. The Hindu sys- 
tem of Yugs, seems to require us to consider them perfected 
in four revolutions, of which the present is the fourth or 
Caly Yiig; but on its termination, the Sata Yug again com- 
mences the series of renovations. 

On the whole, however, I am inclined to think, that the 
Mexicans considered the present sun or age a distinct fifth 
period, which is a division apparently of great antiquity, 
being known to the people of Thibet, [Humboldt, Res. ii. 
31,) as also to the ancient Greeks. Thus Hesiod says, *'0h 
why did fate ordain me to be among the men of this fifth 
age.^^ {Opera ct Dies, 174 ) 

I have already stated, that a division by fifths, (page 220.) 
appears to characterise the ancient astronomical systems of 
Asia, and which is seemingly supported by the fact, that the 
Egyptians, Chinese, Hindoos, Japanese, &c. , recognise the 
universe as composed of five elements: {Diod. Sic. lib. 1. 
chap. 1. Du Halde, Hist. China, iii. 92. Sir Wm. 
Jones, vii. 92. 96. Kasmpher, Hist. Japan, i. 157,) each 
of which in rotation, might be supposed to exercise alternate 
domination over the world, a compound of them all. 

Following the account which relates Coxcox to be the 
progenitor of the present race of men, we find the Mexican 
tradition reports, [Clavigero, Hist. Mex. ii. 5,) that when 
mankind were overwhelmed with the deluge, none were 
preserved but a man called Coxcox, or as he is otherwise 
known Teocipactli, and a woman called Xochiquetzal, who 
saved themselves in a little bark, and landed upon a moun- 
tain called Colhuacan. They had there a great many chil- 
dren, whom the Mexicans report, were all born dumb, until 
a dove from a lofty tree imparted languages to them, but dif- 
fering so much that they could not understand each other. 
{Clavig. Hist. Mex. ii. 5. Humboldt, Res. ii. 64.) 

The people of Mechoachan preserved a tradition, that 
Coxcox, whom they call Tezpi, embarked in a spacious ves- 
sel with his wife, children, various animals, and vegetables, 
whose use was important to man. After the waters began 


to decrease, Tezpi sent out from his ark a vulture to ascer- 
tain the state of the waters, but this bird, which feeds on 
carrion, did not return to him, in consequence of the number 
of dead bodies which were to be found every where strewed 
on the earth. Tezpi then sent out other birds, of which the 
humming bird alone returned, holding in its beak a branch 
covered with leaves. Tezpi seeing that the earth had began 
to produce vegetation, left his vessel near the mountain of 
Colhuacan. {Humboldt, Res. ii. 65. Clavig. Hist. Mex. 
iii. 151.) 

To these remarkable traditions, so consonant with tlie nar- 
ration of the Scriptures, we shall add no comment, as indeed 
they require none; and if any doubts as to their originality 
are suggested, we consider them removed by the candid and 
impartial evidence of Humboldt, whom no one will charge 
of undue bias on this subject. {See his Researches, i. 196, 
ii. 60. 64, &c. 

But, like the cosmogonal systems of other pagan nations, 
the Mexicans embarrass our speculations, by the variety of 
their traditions concerning their ancient history. Thus we 
have just seen that they deduce their origin from Coxcox, 
yet in some manner which we are now unable to explain, 
they also say that the Nahuatlacks, or the seven nations of 
Mexico, (page 177) came forth from seven caves; which 
piece of history is designated in their hieroglyphic paintings, 
{Acosta, Hist. lib. 7,) by a drawing of seven caves, and 
men coming forth from them. See also Humboldt, Res. ii. 32. 

This tradition, which is also found among the Peruvians 
slightly modified, is not however an arbitrary one in our 
opinion, but seems to be similar to the legendary histories of 
the Hindus concerning their seven Rishis,anA the seven he- 
roes of the Druids mentioned by Taliesin, besides other ana- 
logous traditions, which Faber [Orig. Pag. Idol. iii. 167,) 
considers, with every appearance of truth, to have relation 
to the family of Noah escaping from the deluge. But an 
investigation of this subject though curious and interesting, 
would lead us too far from the proper discussions of this es- 
say, and we therefore only deem it necessary to call the at- 
tention of the inquisitive reader to these facts, which are 
well worthy of consideration. 

But from these very remote times, evidently connected 
with the original history of mankind, we have no other cir- 
cumstance of Mexican tradition that seems to connect them 
with the eastern continent, and their particular history pre- 
sents a vast hiatus, extending from the early postdiluvian 
ages until a few centuries preceding the arrival of the Spa- 


niards. They are then represented as having emigrated to 
the land of Mexico, from some region or country to the 
north; which will now be the subject of our particular in- 

It will be seen on referring to page 175, where we have 
given a brief account of the various nations inhabiting Ana- 
huac, that though the origin of the Olmecs, Xicalancas, &c., 
is entirely unknown, yet tradition has preserved a distinct 
remembrance of the emigration of the Toltecks, and some 
other tribes, to the kingdom of Mexico. 

When we consider the degree of civilization possessed by 
the Toltecks and Mexicans, and the singularity of their in- 
stitutions, it becomes a most interesting subject to ascertain 
from what country they emigrated; more especially, as 
most writers have considered them to have been Asiatic 
tribes, who had just previously found their way into Ame- 
rica, and were now descending towards the more southern 
parts of the continent. 

It will require, however, but little examination to prove, 
that this supposed emigration from Asia, is but a hasty con- 
jecture entirely unsupported even by plausible facts. These 
various tribes of Toltecks, Chechimecas, Acolhuas, and Na- 
huatiacks, consisting of some thousands of individuals, spoke 
the same language, [Clavig. His. Mex. i. 144. Humboldt 
Researches, i. 214,) and as their emigrations took place at 
various periods of time, from A. D. 544 to 1245, it is im- 
possible that they could have been Asiatic strangers just en- 
tering America; for we should be able from the lateness of 
the time, to ascertain either from their language* or history, 
the country and people of Asia from whence they had emi- 
grated. And when we add to this, the entire dissimilarity 
in the minutiae of their religion, astronomy, arts, and social 
institutions, from any nation of Asia, we must be convinced, 
that the emigration related inToltecan or Mexican tradition, 
refers to one from some part or other of North America 

* It is perfectly fair to make this estimate from known facts in the history 
of languages elsewhere. The Arabic, has been spoken nearly four thousand 
years. Mr. Champolion, by his researches upon ihe Egyptian hieroglyphics, 
has demonstrated that the Coptic was the language used in the most ancient 
inscriptions of that ingenious people. An instance, however, more in point 
with the subject of our text, has been communicated by Eustace. (Class, 
Tour i 142 ) He informs us upon the authority of Lanzi and Maffei, two 
eminent Italians, that a part of the Cimhri and Teutones who were defeated 
by Marius, B. C 100, near Verona, fled to the mountains in the neighbor- 
hood, where their descendants still continue to the number of seven pa- 
rishes. The late king of Denniaik visited them, and discoursed with them 
in the Danish language, and found their idiom perfectly intelligible. 


It is, however, no easy matter to ascertain their original 
countries, for though they respectively call them Aztlan, 
Huehuetlapallan, Amaquaniecam, Teoacolhuacan, &c. , yet 
these names might not be retained by other tribes, who 
took possession of their deserted lands. At any rate, they 
have hitherto been undetected, and little hope remains of 
our discovering these ancient countries, unless a part of the 
original population remained behind, or that monuments 
bearing their characteristic features, are yet to be discovered, 
which will then determine the ancient seat of their empire. 

The most likely place to seek these ancient countries, is 
in that unexplored part of North America which lies be- 
tween the Columbia river and the Gila of California: for 
upon the banks of the latter river, are yet found those an- 
cient edifices, called by the Spaniards the Casus Grandest 
of which the reader will see in our note* an imperfect ac- 
count, and which tradition reports, were erected by the 
Mexicans when on their journey to Anahuac. Their first 
station or original country, is supposed to have been upon 
the borders of a lake much further north, known by the 
name of Timpanogos, which is partially sketched in our re- 
cent maps, but I believe without any geographical authority 
though it may be a tolerably correct supposition. 

That the population of this almost unknown country is 
really superior to the ordinary Indian or barbarous nations, 
would be unreasonable to doubt, from the accounts given of 
those Spanish adventurers whom an accursed thirst of gold, 
induced at an early period to invade these regions. 

These accounts, for a long period of time, have been al- 
most entirely disregarded by European historians, as devoid 
of truth and probability. More recently, however, we have 
received some information on the subject, which tends di- 
rectly to confirm the early narratives of the Spaniards con- 
cerning Cibola, perhaps not without some exaggeration, but 
I would presume without gross and wilful misrepresentations. 

* "These ruins occupy a space of ground of more than a square league. 
The Casa Grande, is exactly laid down according to the four cardinal points, 
being from N. to S 445 feet in length, and from E. to W. 276 feet in breadth. 
It is constructed of clay rammed into large moulds, (pises) which are of 
unequal sizes but symmetrically placed. The walls are four feet thick. We 
perceive, that their edifice had three stories and a terrace. The stair was 
on the outside, and was probably of wood. We perceive in the Casa Grande, 
five apartments, each of which is 27 feet in length, 10 in breath, and 11 in 
height. A wall, interrupted by large towers, surrounds the principal edifice, 
and appears to have served to defend it. Father Garces discovered the ves- 
tiges of an artificial canal which brought the water of the Rio Gila to the 
town. The whole surrounding plain is covered with broken earthen pitch- 
ers, and pots prettily painted in white, red, and blue." (Humboldt. Pol. E$s. 
ii. 205.) 


However, before we give a sketch of the state of society 
observed by these early adventurers, we shall prepare our 
way, by the more recent statements jiiven us by Baron Hum- 
boldt, {Polit. Essay, ii. 206, 215,) who derived his informa- 
tion from two Spanish monks who partially explored these 
countries A. D. 1773. "In the country of the Moqui, wa- 
tered by the Rio de Yaquesila, they were astonished to find 
an Indian town with two great squares, houses of several 
stories, streets well laid out, and parallel to one another. Ev- 
ery evening, the people assembled together on the terraces 
of which the roofs of the houses are formed. The construc- 
tion of the edifices of the Moqui, is the same with that of the 
Casas Grandes on the banks of the river Gila. Every thing 
in these countries appears to announce traces of the cultiva- 
tion of the ancient Mexicans. We are informed even by the 
Indian traditions, that twenty leagues north from the Moqui, 
near the mouth of the river Zaguananas, the banks of the 
Nabajoa were the first abode of the Mexicans after their de- 
parture from Aztlan. However, the language spoken by the 
Indians of the Moqui, the Yabipais, who wear long beards, 
and those who inhabit the plains in the vicinity of the Rio 
Colorado, is essentially different from the Mexican language." 

"To the south of the Rio Gila, these missionaries found 
the Indians clothed, and assembled together to the number 
of two or three thousand in villages which they call Uturicut 
and Sutaquisan, where they peaceably cultivate the soil. 
Here they saw fields sown with maize, cotton, gourds," &c. 

With these brief testimonials, as to the present character 
of the natives of this part of America, who our readers can- 
not but perceive are entirely different from those nations we 
have termed barbarous, we shall proceed to give a concise 
view of the observations made in this part of America, at an 
early period after the conquest of Mexico. As they were 
made above two hundred years preceding the statements just 
given from Humboldt, it would not be unreasonable to sup- 
pose, that important changes may have occurred during that 
time, and that their civilization may have retrograded. But 
in truth we know nothing of the present state of the country 
other than from the meagre relation given by Humboldt. 

The first Spanish traveller into these regions, [Herrera, 
Hist. Jimer. v. 203,) afterwards so famous under the names 
of Cibola, Quivira, &c., was Mark di Niza, a Franciscan monk, 
who by order of the Spanish governor of New Galicia, 
in A. D. 1539, made an exploratory missionary journey to 
some distance, but how far we are unable to ascertain. He 
reported, that there were towns and cities in this country, 


built of stone, the houses of several stories, and flat roofed. 
One town or city called Cibola, seemed to him larger than 
Mexico when viewed from a distance, for he did not venture 
to approach it closely. He also speaks of seven towns or cit ies, 
pleasantly situated in one kingdom in which the Indians in- 
formed him, there was gold in abundance. He speaks of 
having seen the natives of the country wearing necklaces of 
turquoise stones, and some with such stones passed through 
their noses and ears. These people when they felt the woollen 
garment of the monk, informed him, that similar fabrics were 
made in the town of Tonteac from the fur of some animal, 
which they represented as being of the size of the greyhound 
brought by the friar's companion. The natives in general, 
are described to have been dressed in cotton clothing and cow's 
hides. (Buflfalo robes.) 

Friar Mark also says, that he saw one of the natives of Ci- 
bola, who was a white man, of a good complexion and capa- 
city. {Hackluyt, iii. 370.) Some Indians on the coast also 
told Alarchon, that there were white men up the country, 
but that they knew nothing else. {Hack. iii. 429.) 

In consequence of the relation made by friar Mark of the 
industry, population, and gold of the natives of Cibola, the 
rapacious Spaniards immediately marched an army into this 
country, which after some difficulty, reached the places to 
which they had been directed by a cupidity inflamed by the 
friar's narration. But as these villains were disappointed in 
not finding gold, silver, and precious stones, they charged the 
friar with having told great falsehoods, when at most he had 
been guilty only of exaggeration; for it is evident from their 
own relation, that, on the whole, friar Mark's account was 
not incorrect. 

This we may distinctly perceive from the letter which Co- 
ronado wrote to the viceroy Mendoza, A. D. 1540, after he 
had reached Cibola with his army and was disappointed in 
his hope of plunder. {Hackluyt, Voy. iii, 373, &c.) 

"Briefly I can assure your honor, the father (friar Mark) 
said the truth in nothing that he reported, but all was quite 
contrary, save only the names of the cities and great houses 
of stone; for although they be not wrought with turquoise 
stones, nor with lime nor bricks, yet are they very excellent 
good houses, of three, or four, or five stories high, wherein 
are good lodgings and fair chambers, with ladders instead of 
stairs, and certain cellars under the ground, very good, and 
paved, which are made for winter; they are in a manner like 

"The seven cities, are seven small towns, all built of the 


kind of houses that I have spoken of, and they stand all with- 
in four leagues together. They are all called the kingdom 
of Cibola, though each town has its particular name, none of 
them being called Cibola, but altogether they are called Ci- 
bola. In the town where I now am, there may be some two 
hundred houses, all compassed with walls, and I think with 
the rest of the houses that are not so walled, they may be al- 
together five hundred. There is another town near this, 
which is one of the seven, which is somewhat larger than this 
town, and another of the same bigness that this is of, and the 
other four are somewhat less." 

From this letter of Coronado's we have besides extracted 
the following particulars. 

The natives wore cotton mantles, and the Spaniards found 
in their houses cotton yarn, and raw cotton, both red and 

They also obtained turquoise stones, emeralds, garnets, and 
crystals, but only in small quantities. 

They speak of the abundance of maize found in the coun- 
try, which they said the Indian women ground in a superior 
manner to any thing they had seen before, and that one would 
grind as much as four did in Mexico. 

The natives had excellent salt, which they procured from 
a lake about a day's journey distant. 

They observed here the animal known to our Indian tra- 
ders as the Rocky mountain goat, {Capra mo?i/a?ia, Harlan,) 
which they call a sheep from the fineness of its wool. 

Coronado sent the viceroy a mantle, which, he says, was 
"excellent well made," and which he describes as if it had been 
embroidered with a needle; he adds, that such a thing had 
not been seen before in America, unless executed by the 

They also describe the natives to possess large dogs, which 
were used for purposes of draught, and who would draw a 
load weighing fifty pounds. 

In A. D. 1583, or forty-three years after Coronado's expe- 
dition, a Spaniard named Espejo, made an incursion in these 
countries with a military forcb. {Hackluyt, iii. 38U, &c.) 
He confirms the preceding statements of Coronado and men- 
tions expressly that he saw "houses built of lime and stone." 

Espejo describes the natives, "as people much given to la- 
bour, and continually occupied," wearing mantles of cotton 
streaked with blue and white, and using towels, ornamented 
with tassels at the corners. 

They lived in large and populous towns, in which were 
oratories or chapels containing idols. Their dwellings are 


represented as being four stories liigh, well built, with stoves 
to warm them in the winter season. 

The natives here used a club or stick so beset with sharp 
flints, that they were sufficient to cleave a man asunder. This 
weapon is the Mexican sword, which we have described at 
page 199, and which, I believe, was used no where else in 
America, but among the Tolteck nations. 

It is impossible to guess how far north the Spaniards may 
have gone. On one occasion they say the latitude observed 
was 375, but they marched a considerable distance after this 
observation was made. 

The only circumstance that tends to render this narrative 
suspicious, is the great indications of gold and silver which 
they frequently observed in the mountains; which, however, 
may perhaps be correct for aught that we know. But when 
we remember the credulous stories of the first settlers of Ca- 
nada, New England, Virginia, &c. on this subject, we can 
readily admit, that ignorant and avaricious persons might be 
easily deceived themselves, and mislead others, without a wil- 
ful mendacity, 

I know of no material circumstance, excepting the gold and 
turquoise stones in the foregoing relation, that is not ap- 
parently substantiated by the testimony of the monks quoted 
by Humboldt, and the description given of the Casus Gran- 
des. The woollen garments as they are called, were recent- 
ly observed on the coast; {see page 81,) where white Indians 
are also found. {See page 21.) 

I think it therefore unreasonable, that these ancient ac- 
counts of the demi-civilization of Cibola, should be considered 
unworthy of credit; though it is not improbable that some 
particulars may be exaggerated. Whatever we may think 
of friar Mark, we cannot believe that Coronado made rej)re- 
sentations contrary to truth; when, though impeaching the 
veracity of the monk in certain matters, he describes a state 
of society existing there, evidently proving a demi-civilized 

In this unexplored part of America, therefore, I am deci- 
dedly of opinion we must look for those ancient seats of the 
Tolteck nations, which between the years of the 7th and 
12th centuries, they abandoned to seek an establishment \i^ 
the land of Anahuac. Whether a part of the ancient stock 
is yet to be discovered there or not it is impossible to state; 
but when we remember, that this undescribed part of our 
country, is about 800 miles in length, and 700 miles in breadth, 
it is not unreasonable to believe, that a careful examination, 
when practicable, would even yet disclose to us matters con- 


nected with the ancient history of this people, interesting in 
the highest degree. 

At present, we know of but insignificant analogies, in the 
languages spoken on this coast to that of the Mexicans, and 
as far as I have learned, they seem confined to some few in- 
stances of words ending in tl, that have been observed at 
Nootka Sound. {Cook's Voy. N. Hem. ii. 335.) 

At Nootka, however, we are told, {Humboldt, Pol. Es- 
say, ii. 257,) that the natives reckon twenty days to their 
months, which was the Mexican computation; and this seems 
too arbitrary to have been original with these people, who 
are said also to have counted fourteen such months to their 
year, with an intricate system of intercalation whereby 
they adjusted their civil time with apparent solar motion. 

I think, on the whole, this account of the people of Nootka, 
has been misunderstood by the Spaniards, who can hardly 
be supposed to have learned their language sufficiently well 
to have comprehended their communication on this subject. 
That they may have had months of twenty days, we do not 
deny, but that their year consisted of fourteen such months, 
is seemingly incredible; for if they indeed used intercalations 
to correct their time, it is impossible that they could over- 
look the grossness of a system, that gave but two hundred 
and eighty days to the year. If they counted eighteen such 
months to the year, it is really the Mexican computation, 
and this I presume was the case, but which was misunder- 
stood by the Spanish botanist quoted. by Humboldt. 

From our preceding discourse, though it seems most rea- 
sonable to look for the ancient country of the Toltecks, 
Acolhuas, Mexicans, &c. in that part of America included 
between the Columbia and Gila rivers, and it seems certain 
that they arrived in Mexico through that hitherto unexplor- 
ed country; yet is not impossible that these nations, or a 
part of them, may have in more remote times crossed the 
Rocky mountains from some part of the western states of 
our Union, where we now find various monuments, attesting 
the residence of some anciently demi-civilized people. 

Though the Natchez, and other demi-civilized people of 
Louisiana, were fully able to construct such monuments, 
yet it is not so easy to believe, that they alone were con- 
cerned in their erection; as these works are spread over a 
very great extent of country, seemingly too great to have 
ever been under the exclusive occupancy of those people, 
whom the Spaniards and French found established in Louisi- 
ana, Georgia, &c. 

The following statement, derived from the account of 


Soto's expedition to Florida, seems at least in a slight de- 
gree, to argue some connexion between the natives of Lou- 
isiana and the Toltecks. When that invader was some- 
where, as I conjecture, about the N. E. part of the province 
of Texas, he came to a district and town called Tula, {Her- 
rera, v. 340,) where he had a very severe conflict with the 
natives, who attacked him shouting Tula. 

Tula, in the history of the Toltecks was the capital of their 
ancient country, and in remembrance of it, they so named 
their capital city in Anahuac. Tula signifies a place of 
reeds, which epithet may be applied to innumerable locali- 
ties; but whether the Tula of the province of Texas had 
this meaning or not we cannot say.* At any rate, we can- 
not consider it to have been the ancient Tula of the Toltecks, 
but it may have been named after it, as was the case with the 
city in Anahuac, by some nation or people directly or indi- 
rectly connected with that anciently demi-civilized people; 
and who carried this word with them wherever they made 
their settlements, as in Mexico, Yucatan, &c. 

We must not forget to state, that there was a nation of 
Louisiana called by the French Chitimachas, who lived in 
the low lands between the Mississippi and the Atchafalaya 
rivers. They had been once a considerable people, though 
they were in a very ruinous condition at the time of the 
French settlement. Du Pratz on several occasions mentions 
them as a branch of the demi-civilized Natchez; and that 
these last considered them brethren. 

The name Chitimachas, seems to be identical with the 
Chechimecas of the Spanish historians, and of whose emi- 
gration to Anahuac we have already given an account in 
page 177. The degree of civilization possessed by them, 
is very analogous to that we have described as pertaining to 
the Natchez and other Floridan nations. 

As a few individuals of the Chitimachas are still living, 
it is to be hoped we may yet ascertain, whether their lan- 
guage bears any features of identity with the languages of 
Mexico. Nuttall {Travels, 241,) says, that Mr. Du Ponceau 
informed him, that the language of the Chitimachas appears 
to be radically distinct from that of other aborigines of the 
southern states. 

* The French translation of Garcilazo's Conquest of Florida, &c. {Vol. ii. 
176,) which says, "cette ville qui est situee dans un pay plat, entre deux 
ruisseaux;" would give us reason to think, there must have been reeds in 
abundance in that neighbourhood. 



We are now about to direct our investigation to a region 
whose singular antiquities and history, have forcibly im- 
pressed upon our minds the belief, that the most civilized 
and polished people of America, prior to the Spanish dis- 
covery, were there established. Our information, however, 
concerning this most interesting country is very imperfect, 
and is derived chiefly from detached portions or fragments 
of the Spanish writers, which we are fearful, all our synthe- 
tick skill will be unable to bring together with such cohe- 
rence, as to convey a just idea of the social condition of the 
natives of Guatemala, in those times that preceded the voyage 
of Columbus. 

A pari of the obscurity that covers the ancient history of 
the demi-civilized nations of this kingdom, is to be attri- 
buted to the barbarous fanaticism of the Spanish conquerors, 
and to the apathy and ignorance of their more immediate 
descendants. But unwilling to do even them an injustice, 
we must at least for the present state, that there are several 
historians of the country, whose works may possibly contain 
much information on these subjects, but which all our exer- 
tions have failed to procure. It may therefore seem pre- 
sumptuous in us to write upon these people, when we inform 
the reader, we have never seen the works of Torquemada, 
Sotomayor, Remesel, or Fuentes, and this feeling has made 
us defer to the very last article of this book, the present 
disquisition, when being compelled as it were to make the 
attempt, we have undertaken it with all the disadvantages 
above stated. 

It is true, we have not been altogether discouraged in 
making the present essay, notwithstanding the defect of ma- 
terials, as we have had access to some general histories of 
Guatemala, in which the above named authors are quoted 
both for sta*tements and opinions; which being on the whole 
conformable with our own impressions, induce the hope, 
that we may have the substance of their views and re- 
searches, though without those minutiae of particulars which 
should constitute the basis of our reasoning, and by which 
alone we 'can be guided in our search after truth. It is a 
very difl'erent thing to have the original facts or traditions, 
instead of the deductions from them, often unwise and pre- 


posterous; and of which we have so many instances in the 
Spanish American writers, that we rely unwillingly upon 
their inferential statements. 

The few authors to whom we have had access, however, 
are good, and tolerably explicit; as will be seen in the ensu- 
ing pages where we shall quote them freely. The great 
disadvantage under which we labour, is, that not knowing 
what may have been proved by the writers we have not 
read, we are compelled to adopt a certain course to establish 
our views, that may to others better informed, appear both 
tedious and unnecessary. But having stated all our sources 
of embarrassment, we shall proceed without further apology. 

To accomplish our undertaking in the best manner that 
our means afford, we shall in the first place, attempt to give 
a view of the different nations inhabiting Guatemala, with 
such sketches of their traditional history, as may justify 
the belief, that their demi-civilization either arose from some 
source common to them all, or that if of different origins, it 
had become similar throughout the kingdom, in consequence 
of the civil commotions of states dispersing their population 
into adjacent countries, from their mutual invasions of each 
other's territory, or from emigrations from one part of the 
kingdom to the other; all of which causes of confusion, we 
know did take place according to their traditional history. 

As 1 think we shall be able by this method to prove an 
identity of system in their social condition, we shall then 
proceed in a regular manner, to exhibit the state of civiliza- 
tion peculiar to the people of Guatemala, by bringing under 
each proper head, whatever we have been able to collect 
concerning the different nations of the kingdom. In this 
manner we may, perhaps, with some plausibility, infer what 
was the more entire and perfect system, by which they re- 
gulated the political and religious forms of their social com- 
pact. But before we commence this investigation, some 
few prefatory statements are necessarily to be made. 

In our ensuing discourse, we shall consider the kingdom 
of Guatemala as extending from the western frontiers of 
Soconusco, Chiapa, and Tabasco, to the isthmus of Darien. 
In this investigation we also include the province of Yuca- 
tan, which though politically attached to the kingdom of 
Mexico, yet geographically and morally considered, should 
pertain to Guatemala, as is evident from the inspection of 
the map, and from the aboriginal history of the country. 

The kingdom of Guatemala, had never fallen under the 
dominion of the Mexican kings, {Herrera^ iv. ISS. Juar- 
ros, 200,) though we believe, they had established them- 


selves in some places on the northern frontier of Chiapa, and 
partially in some small settlements in the interior of the 
country; yet their political influence cannot be said to have 
been felt in Guatemala. What efiect the example of their 
institutions or their religion may have had in this kingdom, 
is more doubtful; as there were certainly many resemblances 
in these particulars to the social state of the Mexicans: but 
as we shall presently show that the Toltecas, so distinguish- 
ed in the ancient history of Mexico, had also established an 
empire in Guatemala, we may explain any circumstances of 
general analogy by that undoubted fact. 

Juarros, {Hist. Guatemala, 198,) enumerates twenty-six 
different languages to be spoken in Guatemala, by which 
we presume, he means tongues or dialects, together with 
such original languages as might be found in the kingdom; 
but he makes no particular remark on this subject. The 
reader, however, will perceive how confused and limited our 
information on this interesting country must be, when he is 
informed, that of these different people there is but one, 
whose history even in a very partial manner, can be sepa- 
rated from the common mass. 

We shall now proceed in our disquisition upon the plan 
we have already laid down in the preceding page; commenc- 
ing with the history of that people concerning whom we 
have the most direct and certain account, and then to de- 
scribe the different provinces of the kingdom in regular suc- 
cession, as far as we have been able to collect any important 

Juarros, {Hist. Guateinala, SS, 161,) says, ''the nation 
of the Quiches or Tultecas, extended their empire over the 
greatest portion of the present kingdom of Guatemala." 
Their traditional history is related by him, upon the autho- 
rity of manuscripts in that country that had been written by 
early descendants of the conquerors, who intermarried with 
the daughters and sisters of the aboriginal chiefs and nobles. 

It is an unfortunate circumstance that the traditions are 
not given in their own words; for the Spanish authors have 
disgraced the very commencement of the relation, with the 
following most absurd and unwarrantable statement. "It 
appears," says Juarros, "that the Tultecas were descended 
from the house of Israel, and were released by Moses from 
the captivity in which Pharaoh held them. Having passed 
the Red sea they resigned themselves to the practice of 
idolatry, and persisted therein in spite of the admonitions 
of Moses. But to avoid his reproofs, or from the fear of 
his inflicting some chastisement, they chose to separate from 


him and his brethren, and to retire from that part of the coun- 
try to aplace which they called the Seven Caverns; that is, from 
the borders of the Red sea, to what now is a part of the king- 
dom of Mexico, where they founded the celebrated city of 

In this senseless and extravagant paragraph, which in half 
a dozen lines, connects the Exodus from Egypt, before Christ 
1491, with the settlement of the Toltecas in Anahuac, A. D. 
607, a space of two thousand and ninety-eight years, is over- 
whelmed any traditional account the Toltecas may have real- 
ly given of their history before they came to Mexico. We 
cannot but regret the folly that indulged itself in so ridiculous 
a conclusion, at the expense perhaps of invaluable tradition, 
and the sagacity of antiquarians in possession of their reason 
and understanding. But it is useless to express regret on 
this subject, unless some fortunate accident may have preserved 
these ancient records, in the lumber of some Spanish convent 
in Guatemala, they have most probably perished, and are for 
ever lost to the scientific world. 

From these ''Seven Caverns," the Quiches or Tultecas say, 
they marched into Mexico under the command of a king 
named Tanuh, who was their first monarch, and from whom 
were descended the kings of Tula and Quiche. It seems, 
they had resided some time in the kingdom of Mexico, and 
had multiplied greatly, when by the direction of an oracle, 
they left the Tolteck kingdom in Mexico and marched into 
Guatemala under the command of a chief or king called Ni- 
maquiche, who was the fifth in descent from Tanuh. They 
were engaged many years in this emigratory march, and 
finally settled at a short distance from lake Atitan, where 
they built a city which they called Quiche after the name of 
their leader. It is related on the authority of the same man- 
uscripts, that Nimaquiche was accompanied by three bro- 
thers, who divided the country among them in the following 
manner: One had for his share, the province of the Quele- 
nesand Chiapanecos; another possessed Tezulutlanor Verapaz; 
the third became chief of the Mams and Pocomanes; while 
Nimaquiche reigned over the Quiches, Kachiquels, and Zu- 
tugiles. The son and successor of Nimaquiche was named 
Acxopil, who was at the head of this nation when they set- 
tled in Quiche, and was the first monarch who reigned in 
their capital city of Utatlan, Acxopil having attained a very 
advanced age, divided his empire into three kingdoms; name- 
ly, the Quiche, the Kachiquel, and the Zutugil. The first of 
these he retained to himself, and gave the others to two of 
his sons. At this time, the empire of Acxopil embraced the 


present district or provinces of Solola, Chimaltango, Sacate- 
peques, and part of those of Quezaltango and Totonicapan. 
\Juarros, Hist. Guat. 168.) 

From the time of Nimaquiche to the arrival of Spaniards, 
fifteen monarchs had ruled over the Quiche nation at Utat- 
lan, the last of whom fell in battle, A. D. 1524, by the hand of 
Pedro De Alvarado a chieftain already infamous in the Mex- 
ican conquest, and who now led an army of Spaniards and 
confederate Indians to the subjugation of Guatemala. 

In the preceding tradition, we recognise the account given 
by the Mexicans, that they had proceeded from seven caves; 
and in Tenuch, one of the chieftians who led them to Mex- 
ico, we may discern the king Tanuh of the Toltecks or Qui- 
ches, who is described as conducting the march of the latter 
people to Anahuac. From these circumstances we might 
infer, that the Quiches were rather connected with the Mexi- 
cans than with the Toltecks, of whom we have discoursed in 
p. 175. But as there is every reason to believe, that though the 
Toltecks were superior in civilization to the Mexicans the)?^ 
were of the same descent, {Clavig. Hist. Mex. i. 144, note; 
Humboldt, Research, i. 81,) it is most probable, they all had 
the same traditional history in common, though it has not been 
recorded in the accounts we now have of the Toltecks. But 
however this may be, we learn from Juarros, that during the 
most flourishing period of Teltecan history, a part of their 
people under the name of Toltecas or Quich6s, left that king- 
dom and emigrated to Guatemala. We may also reasonably 
conclude, when the dissolution of the Toltecan monarchy in 
Anahuac took place, that the Quiches received some of that 
people among them; for it is directly asserted by several 
Spanish writers, that many of that ancient nation removed to 
the country adjacent to lake Nicaragua. 

The identity of the Quiches with nations connected with 
the Toltecks of Anahuac, is however evident from the decla- 
rations of the Mexicans and Tlascalans who assisted the Span- 
iards in the conquest of Guatemala; for according to Juarros, 
[Hist. Guat. 167,) "they declared themselves relations and 
friends, formed intermarriages with the Quiches, and gave 
them a copy of the instrument by which they had received 
honor and privileges from the emperor Charles the 5th, for 
services rendered to the Spaniards during the conquest of 

The people of Chiapa, to a greater or less degree, it is pro- 
bable were of similar origin with the Quiches. Such at least 
is their tradition, which we think confirmed by the analogy 
existing between their ancient monuments. We prefer this 


statement of their descent to that given by Remes9.\,(Juarros, 
Guatemala^ 207,) who affirms they came from somewhere 
beyond lake Nicaragua, which is contrary to every analogy; 
for in important particulars they agree with the Toltecan na- 
tions, who certainly came from the north. If there be any 
weight in Remesal's observation, which we have only learn- 
ed, however, at second hand, I should presume it can only re- 
fer to some partial removal of their population from one 
place to another in ♦he same country. 

Clavigero {Hist. Mexico, i. 141,) relates, that the Chia- 
penese reported, they had come to their country from the 
north, and that when they arrived at Soconusco a separation 
of their people took place, some going to inhabit the country 
of Nicaragua, vvhile another portion remained in Chiapa. 

The Quiche traditions state, that both the Quelenes and 
Chiapenese, are descendants of those persons who followed a 
brother of king Nimaquiche from Tula in Anahuac. 

The Chiapenese appear to have held some traditions very 
similar to the one we have related of Xelhua, among the 
Cholulans, (page 234,) and which is thus summed up by Nu- 
nez de la Vega. (Juarros Guat. 208. ) The Chiapenese re- 
late, that they had been conducted to their country by twenty 
chiefs, the principal one of whom was called Votan, who, ac- 
cording to their tradition, saw the great wall which men at- 
tempted to build up to the sky; and that at this place, to 
every people a different language was given. But as this re- 
lation is the substance of De la Vega's inference from their 
tradition, we will not venture to comment on it, further than 
to remark its apparent conformity with the tradition of the 
Cholulans already quoted, and which Humboldt [Res. i. 320,) 
also justifies by his quotation from De la Vega. 

The next province in order is that of Yucatan, which, ac- 
cording to Juarros, {Hist. Guat. 287,) was known to the 
aborigines by the name of Maya, the appellation of the most 
considerable nation inhabiting the peninsula. Whether their 
language be radically distinct from that spoken by the Qui- 
ches we have no means of ascertaining; but Juarros has enu- 
merated it as a distinct tongue in the catalogue of languages 
spoken in Guatemala. I do not however place much reliance 
upon his classification, unless the languages he mentions are 
to be considered as dialects of some one or more original 
languages spoken in the kingdom; on this point, however, he 
has said nothing to justify any supposition whatever. But 
though the language of the Mayas may be original or not, I 
apprehend their civilization, as manifested by their architec- 
ture, science, and religion, indicates an origin from sources 


common to them, the Quiches and other demi-civilized peo- 
ple of Guatemala. 

All that we have been able to learn of the traditional his- 
tory of this province, may be seen in Herrera, {Hist, turner. 
iv. 161, &c.) who says, some of the natives informed the first 
Spaniards who invaded their country, that "they had been 
told by their forefathers that their country had been inhabit- 
ed by people that came from the eastward, wliom God had 
delivered from others, opening them a way through the sea." 
Concerning this people we have no other particulars sta- 
ted; or whether they constituted the basis of the popula- 
tion of the country. It is most probable, however, that the 
people of Yucatan came from the westward: for Herrera im- 
mediately proceeds with the following statement: "At Chi- 
cheniza old men said, that formerly three brothers reigned 
there, who came thither from the westward, gathered a great 
multitude, and ruled some years peaceably and justly, and 
that they built large and fine structures." After a time, these 
brothers became odious from their vices and tyranny to the 
people, who killed them and then dis])ersed themselves, 
abandoning all the structures they had erected, &c. 

Herrera continues to relate, that "those who inhabited 
Chicheniza are caUed Yzaes, among whom a great lord called 
Cuculcan is said to have reigned, and all agree that he came 
from the westward; but there is a difference between them 
whether he came before or after, or with the Yzaes. But 
the name of the structure of Chicheniza, and the events of 
that country after the death of the lords, shew that Cuculcan 
governed together with them. He was a man of a good dis- 
position, not known to have had wife or children, a notable 
republican, (statesman) and therefore looked upon as a god, 
he having contrived to build another city in which business 
might be managed. To this purpose they pitched upon a 
spot eight leagues from the place where Merida now stands, 
and fifteen from the sea, where they made an enclosure of 
about half a quarter of a league, being a wall of dry stone, 
with only two gates. They built temples, calling the great- 
est of them Cuculcan. Near the enclosure were the houses 
of the prime men, among whom Cuculcan divided the land, 
appointing each of them towns." 

"This city was called Mayapan, {the standard of Maya,) 
the Maya being the language of the country. Cuculcan gov- 
erned the province in peace and quietness and with great 
justness for some years, when having provided for his depar- 
ture, and recommended to them the good form of government 
which had been established, he returned to Mexico the same 


way he came, making; some stay at Chanpoton, (N. lat. 19° 
30',) where as a memorial of his journey, he erected a struc- 
ture in the sea, which is to be seen at this Hay." 

The lords of Yucatan, thinking it would be better to vest 
the civil government in the hands of one person, conferred 
the dignity on the family of the Cocomes, who appear to 
have been princes of considerable power: for they are said 
to have possessed < 'twenty-two good towns." They en- 
larged the city, which seems to have been under the regula- 
tion of a good police; for taxes or tributes were raised in 
kind among the people, and provision was made for the sup- 
port of the maimed, aged, blind, &c. 

"They had a high priest for the service of their gods, 
who was succeeded by his sons. He had the direction of 
religious affairs, gave advice to the lords, answered questions 
proposed to him, provided priests for all the towns, whose 
business it was to teach their sciences, and compose such 
books as they had." 

"Whilst the Cocomes lived in this regular manner, there 
eame from the southward great numbers of people, looked 
upon for certain to have been of the province of Chiapa, 
who travelled forty years about the deserts of Yucatan, and 
at length arrived at the mountains that are almost opposite 
to the city of Mayapan, where they settled and raised good 
structures. The people of Mayapan some years after, liking 
their way of living, sent to invite them to build houses for 
their lords in their city. The Tutuxius, (so these strangers 
were called,) accepted their courtesy, came into the city and 
built their houses, and their people spread about the country, 
submitting themselves to the laws and customs of Maya- 
pan." &c. 

While they lived in this quiet and peaceable manner, the 
lord of Mayapan of the race of Cocomes, with the assistance 
of forces procured from the Mexicans at Tabasco and Xica- 
lango, began to oppress and tyrannize over his people. His 
successor still continuing the same course, and constantly 
introducing Mexican soldiers into the country, at last be- 
came so oppressive, that the people with the assistance of the 
Tutuxius, rose on their governor, assaulted his house, and 
slew him and all his sons, excepting one who happened to be 
absent. They then abandoned the city of Mayapan, an event 
which took place about five hundred years after its founda- 
tion, and about seventj' years before the arrival of the 

Herrera says, "each of the lords who left Mayapan, en- 
deavoured to carry home as many of that sort of books they 


then had as he could, for the instruction of their people, 
and there they built temples, which was the occasion that so 
many structures were found in the province." 

It is not deemed necessary to continue the local historj?^ of 
this country to a later period. Herrera mentions the rise of 
the Tutuxius to great importance, the partial revival of the 
Cocomes, &c., but these matters do not concern our present 

In the preceding historical traditions, we perceive that the 
great bulk of the population of Yucatan, came from the 
westward, which as a general expression, may mean either 
Mexico, Chiapa, or Guatemala proper. As to the earliest 
tradition, which ascribes a part of the population to strangers 
from the east, I should presume, it either applies to some ac- 
cidental arrival of persons from some of the West India isl- 
ands, or else the story arose from some perverted tradition 
which the Spaniards have not fairly understood. We shall, 
however, presently take notice of this tradition in connexion 
with certain facts that may, in the opinion of some persons, 
make it of more importance than we can at present admit. 

If we can allow of any accuracy in the chronological events 
of the traditions above related, it would appear that the 
building of the city of Mayapan, and the foundation of the 
government of the Cocomes, took place about 570 years be- 
fore the arrival of the Spaniards in Yucatan. (A. D. 1527.) 
This will bring the time to about 70 years before the epoch, 
when the Tolteck government in Mexico, became dissolved 
from the causes we have enumerated in page 176; and it is 
not improbable, that the remainder of tiiat nation, emigrating 
towards the east, reached Chiapa, and spread themselves in 
Yucatan, Honduras, Nicaragua, &c. The history of Cucul- 
can expressly declares, that a connexion existed between 
some of the ancient demi-civilized people of Anahuac, and 
the people of his government in Yucatan, but it is too ob- 
scure to venture an opinion as to what particular people 
might be meant in the tradition. 

Concerning th6 origin of the natives of Honduras, the 
Spanish writers accessible to my research, mention no tradi- 
tion. We may, however, from the brief account we possess 
of their institutions and religion, as well as from their juxta- 
position to the Quiches and Nicaraguans, pretty safely infer 
them to have been either of similar descent, or at least, that 
their civilization proceeded from the same common source. 

Those particulars of their institutions, religion, &c. that 
may be deemed worthy of notice, we shall mention inciden- 
tally, in the general history of the kingdom of Guatemala. 


The people of the province of Nicaragua, [Herrera, iii. 
300, 340,) said, ''they were descended from the Mexicans, 
and their language and habits were much the same with 
those people." 

This tradition we consider substantially correct, but not 
in all particulars. The Mexicans here spoken of, are not to 
be considered as the Aztecks or Mexicans proper, but as per- 
sons from the kingdom of Mexico, who in all probability 
were Toltecks or a kindred people. The tradition of the 
Chiapenese, considered them the same people with them- 

Of the identity of the Nicaraguans with the Toltecks and 
Quiches, we shall presently give plausible evidence, when 
we discourse in a general manner concerning the institutions 
of the Guatemalan nations. 

To make our account of the different nations of Guatemala 
as complete as our means afford, we must observe, that the 
Mexicans, properly so called, whose kingdom adjoined Gua- 
temala, had not only made some partial settlements in this 
country along the frontiers, but had also intruded themselves 
into the interior provinces, where they lived with greater or 
less communication with the more ancient or original nations 
of the country. We have already mentioned, that the mo- 
narch of the Cocomes in Yucatan, had introduced Mexican 
soldiers into that peninsula to enable him to oppress his own 
subjects. After the revolution that ensued, as we have al- 
ready mentioned, the Mexicans were permitted by the in- 
surgent chiefs and Tutuxius to remain in the province. 
{Herrera, iv. 166.) They settled in the district of Canul, 
a little to the westward of Cape Catoche, where they con- 
tinued until the arrival of the- Spaniards. 

Juarros, {^Hist. Guat. 224,) says, that the Pipiles, who 
were found on the coasts of the Pacific ocean in the provin- 
ces of Zonzonate, St. Salvador, and St. Miguel, were also 
of Mexican origin; but the account he has given of them 
seems so improbable, that we rather consider them to have 
been like other people of Guatemala, descendants of the Tol- 
tecks or other kindred tribes. The relation of Juarros, 
however, is to be found in the note to this page,* by which 

* " Autzol, the eighth king of Mexico, having been repulsed in his attempts 
to subdue the powerful nations of the Quiches, Kachiquels, Mams, Tzen- 
dals, Q,uelenes, and Sapotecas by force, endeavoured to accomplish his ob- 
ject by stratagem. The commencement of his plan was to send a great 
number of Indians under the direction of a chief and four subordinate offi- 
cers, who were directed to introduce themselves by degrees into the country 
under the disguise of merchants; and settle where they could along the 
coast of the Pacific ocean. By this contrivance, h*^ expected to have a 


the reader can judge of the probability of our conjecture 
concerning their history. 

Of any other people of Guatemala than those already men- 
tioned, we have no accounts, most probably they were but 
barbarian in their manners and institutions; though from 
living more or less connected with the demi-civilized nations 
of t!ie country, they may have been influenced to a certain 
degree, to imitate them in the more obvious particulars of 
comfortable living. Such, perhaps, were the kings of Ada 
and Comagre on the Isthmus of Darien, whose social condi- 
tion made a certain impression on the minds of the Span- 
iards, who first visited Tierra Firma. The few particulars 
we possess concerning these chieftains will be annexed to 
the end of this chapter. 

Having now completed our sketch of the more celebrated 
nations inhabiting Guatemala, with such apparent probabili- 
ties of their having been constituted and governed upon 
principles and practices common to the whole, vve shall now 
proceed to exhibit under difierent heads, all that seems wor- 
thy of record concerning their social condition, as far as our 
limited means have afforded the opportunity of compilation. 

Of the Forms of Government, Laws, 8fc., of the People 
of Guatemala. 

Though we have every reason to believe, that the general 
form of government among the natives of Guatemala was 
essentially monarchical, yet we must take notice of two 
anomalies in the general system, but of which we are unable 
to communicate any particular information. 

Clavigero {Hist Mexico, i. 141,) says, "the Chiapcnese 
were not governed by kings, but by two military chiefs 
elected by the priests." 

In the district of Acalan in the province of Honduras, 
Herrera says, {Hist. *diner. iii. 360,) it was the custom "to 
choose the wealthiest merchant for their lord, and such was 
Apoxpalan, who drove a great trade, &c. " 

Excepting the above instances, I have met with no other 

strong party ready to assist him, whenever he found it convenient to make 
an irruption into the country His death, houever, put an end to his de- 
signs aJmosl at their very beginning. The Inuiuns who had thus obtained a 
fooling were Mexicans of the very lowest caste, speaking a corrupt dialect 
of the Mexican with a childish pronunciation: this circumstance gave rise 
to iheir name of Pipiles, a word in the Mexican language signifying children. 
In a short lime, these Pipiles multiplied immensely, and spread over the 
provinces of Zoizonate, St. Salvador, and St. Miguel; a fact proved by the 
great number of villages in these districts to which the Fipil language is 


relation but such as induce a belief, that the country was di- 
vided among a number of petty chieftains, each king over 
his own town or village, and owing fealty and submission to 
a lord paramount, whom we may call the monarch or king 
of ihe country. But how these matters were reguiated we 
know not, unless it may be inferred from the history of the 
Quiches as related by Juarros. 

Tne government of the Quiches, according to Juarros, 
{^Hist. Gnat. 187.) was monarchical and hereditary, after a 
manner recognized among many aboriginal people of Ame- 
rica. Thus, if the eldest son of the reigning king succeeded 
his father in the throne, the second son was called the elect, 
as being the next heir to his brother. The son of the eldest 
son, received the title ot captain senior^ and the son of the 
second son, was styled captain junior, according to the Spa- 
nish translation of the Indian words. When the king died, 
the elect (second son) succeeded him, and the captnin se- 
nior, became the elect, and the "captain juniur," became 
"captain senior." But if any one of these four personages 
was found incapable of governing, he remained in his indi- 
vidual rank during life, and the next nearest relation was 
raised to the superior dignity. 

The supreme council of the monarch of Quiche was com- 
posed of twenty-four grandees, with whom the king delibe- 
rated on all political and military afiairs. These counsellors 
were invested with great dignities and privileges, but were 
severely punished if they committed any crime. The ad- 
ministration of justice and collection of the public revenues 
were under their charge. 

Whenever the king went abroad, he was carried in his 
chair of state on the shoulders of his counsellors. 

The monarch or king of the Quiches, was liable to be 
tried for his political conduct, and if convicted of extreme 
cruelty and tyranny was deposed by the ahaguaes,* who 
for this purpose assembled a council with great secrecy; the 
next in succession according to law, w is placed on the 
throne, and his ejected predecessor punished by confiscation 
of property and death. 

To the offices of lieutenants and counsellors, and even to 
door-keepers of the council chamber, none but those of no- 
ble birth were admitted; and there was no instance of any 
person being appointed to any public office, who was not se- 
lected from the nobility. Hence to keep the purity of their 

* Juarros does not translate this word, nor does he inform us who they 
were that bore the title; most probably, however, the "counsellors" are 


lineage unsullied, it was decreed by law, that if any cacique 
or noble should marry a woman not of noble family, he 
should be degraded to the caste of plebeian, and his estates 
were sequestrated to the king, leaving him only a sufficient 
maintenance as a plebeian. 

The Quiche kings lived in great state and dignity at their 
capital city of Utatlan, (near Santa Cruz, in Solola.) We 
shall not describe that city, as we have selected Del Rio's 
description of a deserted city near Palenque in Chiapa, to 
illustrate the subject of the architecture of the nations inha- 
biting Guatemala, and which will be presently laid before 
the reader. But to convey a correct idea of the court and 
palace of the Quich6 kings, we shall extract from Juarros, 
(Hist. Guat. 87,) that part of his description of Utatlan 
that relates to this particular subject. 

"The palace of the kings of Quiche, in the opinion of 
Torquemada, could compete in opulence with that of Mon- 
tezuma in Mexico, or that of the Inras at Cuzco in Peru. 
The front of this building extended from east to west 376 
geometrical paces, and in depth 728: it was constructed of 
hewn stone of different colours, its form was elegant and al- 
together most magnificent. There were six principal divi- 
sions; the first contained lodgings for a numerous troop of 
lancers, archers, and other well disciplined troops, consti- 
tuting the royal body guard. The second was destined to 
the accommodation of the princes and relations of the king, 
who dwelt in it and were served with regal splendor as long 
as they remained unmarried. The third, was appropriated 
to the use of the king, and contained distinct suites of apart- 
ments for the mornings, evenings, and nights. In one of 
the saloons, stood the throne, under four canopies of plu- 
mage: the ascent to it was by several steps. In this first 
part of the palace were the treasury, the tribunals of the 
judges, the armory, the gardens, aviaries, and menageries, 
with all the requisite offices appending to each department. 
The fourth and fifth divisions, were occupied by the queens 
and royal concubines; they were necessarily of great extent, 
from the immense number of apartments requisite to the ac- 
commodation of so many females, who were all maintained 
in a style of sumptuous magnificence. Contiguous to this 
division, was the sixth and last; this was the residence of 
the king's daughters, and other females of the blood royal, 
where they were educated and attended in a manner suitable 
to their rank." 

Connected with this establishment, were gardens, baths, 
&c., and "places for breeding geese, that were kept for the 


sole purpose of furnishing feathers, witli which hangings, 
coverings, and other similar ornamental articles were made." 

As it has been generally a habit, to consider the seemingly 
magnificent descriptions of the early writers on American 
aboriginal institutions as romantic exaggerations, we appre- 
hend it is possible, that such a sentiment may arise at the 
present moment, in the bosom of the reader after perusing 
the above description. Though we will not contend that 
there is not more or less exaggeration in the relation ex- 
tracted from Juarros, we must request the reader to suspend 
his opinion on the subject, until we have been able in the en- 
suing pages, to introduce other matters pertaining to the ci- 
vilization of the natives of Guatemala, which will impart 
great appearance of verisimilitude to the preceding descrip- 

We may judge of the general character of the laws by 
which the Quiche monarchy was governed, from the follow- 
ing extracts taken from Juarros, (Hist. Guat. l&l,) who has 
partially exhibited some of the moral principles of their le- 
gal system. 

Whoever was guilty of crimes against the king, or against 
the state, or was convicted of homicide, was punished by 
death, the sequestration of his effects, and slavery of his re- 

The stealing of things sacred, the profanation of the tem- 
ples, and contumacy to the priests or ministers of the idols, 
subjected the offender to capital punishment, and all his fa- 
mily were declared infamous. 

Ordinary robberies were punished by making the culprit 
pay the value of the things stolen, and a fine in addition. 
For the second offence, the fine was doubled; and for the 
third, they were punished with death, unless some nobleman 
would redeem them; but if they transgressed a fourth time, 
they were inevitably put to death by throwing them from a 

Incendiaries were deemed enemies of their country, be- 
cause it was said that fire has no bounds, and by setting fire 
to one house a whole town might be destroyed. Death 
therefore was the punishment inflicted upon the perpetrator, 
and his family were banished from the kingdom. 

Rape was punished by death. Adultery in a queen, was 
punished by strangling the parties if the man was of noble 
blood; but if he was a commoner, they were both thrown 
from off a very high rock. 

Adultery among ordinary individuals, appears to have 
been punished pretty much according to the discretion of 


the injured husband and his friendsj sometimes they inflict- 
ed death, and at other times a very severe cudgelling on the 
offending party. 

Juarros informs us, that when a criminal was brought be- 
fore the judge, if he confessed the crime with which he was 
charged, heimmediately underwent the punishment awarded 
by the laws: but if he denied the charge he was tortured, 
by being stripped naked, suspended by the thumbs, and in 
that situation severely flogged, and exposed to the smoke 
arising from burning cayenne peppers. 

From these extracts we may perceive, that the Quiche 
laws were severe in their penalties. On the whole, howe- 
ver, the moral reasoning was just and appropriate to a de- 
mi-civilized people, who can be only restrained by laws 
which appear cruel to persons of European origin. Their 
mode of examining criminals, reminds us of the similar 
practice of "father's land," where with all their boasted re- 
finements and the influence of Christianity besides, like 
these poor heathens, they attempted to extort the confession 
of guilt when direct proof was wanting. 

With the Quiches, I presume, few or no eases were 
brought before the judge, that were of that doubtful cha- 
racter which the experience of civilized life, has ascertained 
to be so dangerous to individuals upon our ideas of presump- 
tive evidence, and hence, much less injustice was done in 
this procedure of the Quiche courts, than might be at first 

Of matters 7'elating to the Wars of the people of Guate- 

We have every reason to infer, that the demi-civilized peo- 
ple of Guatemala arrayed their troops in good order for fight- 
ing, and that there existed a considerable degree of discipline 
and subordination among their soldiers. [Bernal Dias, 328, 
352.) Herrera [Hist. Amer. iv. 16,) says, that in Yucatan 
the Indian armies were drawn up with two wings and a cen- 
tre, where the lord or general and the high priest were posted. 

Though their musical instruments were also used in the 
ceremonies of their religion, and on convivial occasions, yet 
they more properly belong to their military institutions. 
They are thus enumerated, {Herrera, iv. 170,) "they have 
small kettle drums, and a large one that has a hoarse sound, 
long slender trumpets made of hollow sticks and at the end 
of them long crooked gourds, whistles made of deer's bones, 
large cornets, pipes made of canes, and another instrument of 
melancholy sound, made of the whole shell of a tortoise, 
all the flesh being taken out." 


The weapons employed by the Quiches appear to have 
been very similar to those used by the Mexicans, as we may 
infer from the incidental notice of such matters by Juarros 
and other writers. 

They used the wooden sword or club serrated with sharp 
flints, lances, arrows and slings. Bernal Dias [Co7iq. of Mex. 
360, 368,) says, their archers were uncommonly good, and 
that their slingers annoyed the Spaniards greatly. 

Juarros (page 232,) and Herrera {Hist. Jimer. iii. 336, 
3 37,) state, that the Indians near the city of old Guatemala, 
poisoned their weapons on a certain occasion, but I presume 
this charge to be incorrect, as Bernal Dias does not make 
mention of the fact, which that bragging Spaniard would 
hardly have overlooked. 

They used targets made of wood, or of the hide of the ta- 
pir, and sometimes for this purpose, they employed the whole 
shell of the large sea turtle found on their coasts. 

They also used as defensive armour, very thick cotton 
dresses, which Herrera says, {Hist. Jlmer. iii. 337,) "were 
so heavy that the wearers could not run away, nor rise when 
fallen, being like sacks, with sleeves made of cotton hard 
twisted three fingers thick." 

Grijalva, on the coast of Tabasco, {Herrera, Hist. ii. 127,) 
was presented by an Indian chief with an armour made of wood, 
covered with plates of gold, a head piece of tiie same mate- 
rials, &c. But though we mention the fact in this place, I 
rather think this armour was of Mexican manufacture, as 
I have met with nothing similar among the Guatemalans. 

Fortifications, or military defensive works, were erected 
in considerable numbers throughout Guatemala, as may be 
seen in every history of that kingdom. Without taking no- 
tice of them according to their various localities, we shall 
alone extract from Juarros, {Hist. Guat. 462,) the descrip- 
tion of one of the most celebrated fortresses of the country, 
which was situated to the east of Gueguetenango, near the 
river Socoleo, from which it derives its name. 

"The approach as usual to such places, was by oni}' one 
entrance, and that so narrow as scarcely to permit a horse- 
man to pass it. From the entrance there ran on the right 
hand a parapet, raised on the berm of the fosse, extending 
along nearly the whole of that side; several vestiges of the 
counterscarp and curtain of the walls still remain, besides 
parts of other works, the use of which cannot now be easily 
discovered. In a court yard there stood some large columns, 
upon the capitals of which were placed quantities of pine 
wood, that being set on fire gave light at night to the sur- 


rounding neighbourhood. The citadel or lofty cavalier of 
this great fortification was in the form of a square graduated 
pyramid, rising twelve or fourteen yards from the base to the 
platform on the top, which was sufficient to admit of ten 
soldiers standing on each side; the next step would accommo- 
date a greater number, and the dimensions proportionably in- 
creased to the lowest or twenty-eighth step. The steps 
were intersected in unequal portions by parapets and curtains, 
rendering the ascent to the top so extremely difficult, that 
Fuentes says, he attempted several times to reach the plat- 
form, but was unable to perform the task until his Indian in- 
terpreter acted as his guide and conducted him to the sum- 
mit. The ruins of several buildings were then in existence; 
they appeared to have been intended as quarters for the sol- 
diers, were extremely well arranged, and distributed with due 
regard to proportion; between each three or four of these 
buildings there was a square court yard, paved with slabs, 
made of stiff clay, lime and sand. Every part of the fortress 
was constructed of hewn stone in pieces of great size; one of 
which being displaced measured three yards in length by one 
in breadth," &c. 

Of the. state of Society, Agriculture, Arts, <^'C. of the 
j)eople of Guatemala. 

It would seem from the Spanish writers, that the natives 
of Guatemala lived for the most part upon maize and other 
vegetable substances; a circumstance easily explained by the 
fact, that they domesticated no animals for purposes of food,* 
and being employed either in the cultivation of their grounds, 
in war, or other national services, they could only occasion- 
ally procure animal food by hunting or fishing. Juarros does 
not enumerate the plants or roots cultivated by the Quiches. 
Herrera {Hist. Jimer. iv. 132, &c.) says, that in Honduras 
the natives cultivated maize, sweet potatoes, beans, peppers, 
(capsicum) gourds or pumpkins. The yucca or mandioc root 
is mentioned by him incidentally, but I have met with no 
account of the cassava bread having been used by them prior 
to the Spanish conquest. 

Juarros remarks the Quiches were intemperate in their 
habits, and that the}^ made ten different kinds of drink from 
maize. In Yucatan, Herrera {Hist. Amer. iv. 134, 170,) 

* Berrial Dias, 415, says, he had obsei-ved that partridges were frequently 
domesticated among the Indians of Guatemala, but whether for food or as 
pets, he does not say. I presume the latter, for if they had reared animals 
for eating, they might have procured them of much larger size and equally 


relates, that the natives intoxicated themselves with a liquor 
made of honey and water; and in Honduras they accomplish- 
ed that purpose by infusions of certain roots and fruits in 
water, which were then submitted to fermentation. 

Though Juarros does not mention the use of tobacco among 
the Quiches, yet we presume it was used by them in smok- 
ing; for Herrera and other writers takes notice of that prac- 
tice in various other parts of the kingdom. 

At Darien, this plant was smoked after a fashion we have 
not observed elsewhere. An attendant having lighted a very 
large cigar, put the burning end into his mouth and blew the 
smoke through the cigar into the mouths of all the company 
in regular succession. It is doubtful, however, whether this 
people were any ways connected with the demi-civilized por- 
tion of Guatemala. 

Among the Quiches, when a man wished to marry, (a 
commoner I presume,) he was obliged to serve the parents of 
his intended wife for a certain period of time, and also to 
make them stipulated presents. If they should afterwards 
reject his suit, they were compelled to serve him an equal 
number of days, and restore the presents they had received. 

Juarros seems to say, that the Quiche mothers were very 
careful of the chastity of their unmarried daughters; but if 
this really was the case with them, which we are inclined to 
doubt, it was not the general custom of the country. In Ni- 
caragua, Herrera, iii. 298, says, the women were generally 
''naughty before marriage, and good after." Concubinage 
was permitted throughout Guatemala, but in Nicaragua at 
least, a man could have but one woman as his "lawful wife," 
and he who committed bigamy, was formally banished; an 
instance of keeping "the promise to the ear, and breaking it 
the sense," by no means extraordinary, even among our- 
selves or European nations. 

There was nothing peculiar in the celebration of their nup- 
tials that deserves notice, except the fact, that the parties 
were obliged previously to confess their sins in private to a 
priest, which practice appears from various passages in Her- 
rera, to have been common among the nations of Guatemala 
on various important occasions. A not unwise law of the Ni- 
caraguans, {Herrera, iii. 300,) allowed the priests who heard 
confessions to marry, a privilege not extended to the other 
ministers of their idolatrous worship. 

Divorces constantly took place among these diflferent na- 
tions, and as far as I have been able to discover, without any 
reference to the constituted authorities of the kingdom. 

In the education of children the Quiches appear to have 


excelled all other demi-civilized people of America, if we can 
rely upon the account of Torquemada, {Jiiarros, 195,) who 
says, "they had schools in all their principal towns both for 
boys and girls, who were under the superintendence of el- 
derly experienced persons." Juarros [Hist. Gnat. 87,) 
when describing the city of Utatlan, relates, "that the most 
superb of all the public edifices, was a seminary where be- 
tween five and six thousand children were educated." We 
cannot but suspect these numbers to be greatly exaggerated, 
yet if the fact be true, that they had public schools, "sup- 
ported by the royal treasury," it must establish the claim of 
the Quiches to more than an ordinary degree of demi-civil- 

I consider the relation, on the whole, plausible, as we shall 
be able to shew with some certainty, that the nations of 
Guatemala had improved their hieroglyphic system into one 
seemingly analogous to the character-writing of the Chinese; 
and hence an evident reason would be seen why pains should 
be taken to instruct their children in this artificial system. 
We must, however, defer speaking on this subject, until a 
more suitable occasion is offered in our ensuing investiga- 

The Quiche nobility dressed themselves in cotton garments, 
dyed or stained with different colours. The common peo- 
ple, who were prohibited the use of cotton clothing, made 
use of grass and fibrous barks, which they spun and wove in- 
to pieces of the necessary size and shape. These last also 
used for clothing a certain kind of bark, which on being sim- 
ply soaked in water for several days and then well beaten, 
resembled shammy leather of a brown colour. 

The dress of the nobles, for the most part, consisted of a 
cotton shirt with sleeves, which were looped above the el- 
bow with a blue or red band. They also wore a kind of 
half drawers, and over them another pair, which Juarros calls 
breeches, which reached to the knees, where they were or- 
namented with a species of embroidery, (fringes?) Their 
legs were bare, and the feet were protected by sandals fast- 
ened over the instep and heel by thongs of leather. The 
hair was worn long, and tressed behind with a cord of the 
same colour as that used upon the sleeves, and terminating 
in a tassel if the wearer was a man of distinction. The 
waist was girded by a piece of coloured cloth. Over the 
shoulders was thrown a white mantle, ornamented with the 
figures of birds, lions, (the cougouar) and other decorations 
of cords and fringes. 

The dress of the poorer classes was suited to the nature 


of the climate. Some of them wore a shirt, which was 
drawn between the legs and fastened to a piece of cloth tied 
round the middle; and on proper occasions they no doubt 
used a coarse mantle. In the warmer districts of the country, 
they only used the breech-cloth, being otherwise entirely 

It appears from Juarros, that the better class of females 
among the Quiches, "wore a species of petticoat, that de- 
scends from the middle of the body to the ankles, and a robe 
over the shoulders reaching to the knees, which was worked 
with thread of different colours." 

In Yucatan, the female natives ''wore a garment like a 
sack, open on both sides up to their hips;" which we may 
presume was, with certain variations of no importance, the 
general fashion of the poorer class of females throughout 

The Quiches pierced their ears and lower lips, through 
which they passed various ornaments of gold, silver, &c. 
The hair of the head was permitted to grow long, but they 
wore it queued up or tied into several tresses. 

The Nicaraguans shaved the fore part of their heads, and 
those eminent in war removed all their hair but that which 
grew on the crown of the head, which was no doubt dressed 
In various fashions. 

The natives of Yucatan, {Herrera, iv. lfc»9,) flattened their 
"heads and foreheads" by artificial compression; and it would 
seem, that the women at least, used to "saw their teeth," and 
puncture their bodies. 

We now proceed to describe as well as we are able, the 
various arts and manufactures of the people of Guatemala; but 
concerning which we cannot but regret, our information is 
but too often derived from the accidental statements of the 
Spanish writers, and not from any particular description of 

We have already stated in our account of the dress of these 
people, that they spun and wove cotton and the fibrous barks 
of certain plants into suitable garments. We are ignorant 
by what methods they accomplished these manufactures, but 
presume it was by means of those contrivances that were 
used by the Mexicans. At any rate, they exercised these 
arts with great dexterity, for Herrera, {Hist. %dmer. iv. 
143,) says, the women among the Nicaraguans "spin as fine 
as a hair." 

We have already mentioned in our account of the palace 
of Utatlan, that the Quiches from the feathers of birds, made 
"hangings, coverings, and other similar ornamental arti- 


They undoubtedly understood the art of working the more 
common metals, such as copper, gold, silver, &c. though Ju- 
arros has strangely said they did not know the use of metal 
tools, a fact which he himself establishes, by describing 
many of their edifices to be constructed of "hewn stone." 

Columbus when at Cape Honduras (long. 86° W.) was 
visited by a trading canoe of the Indians, (^Herrera, i. 260,) 
and says, among other articles of merchandise that consti- 
tuted their cargo, were "small hatchets made of copper to 
hew wood, small bells and plates, crucibles to melt cop- 
per," &c. 

Cabrera, {Del JRio^s Descriplio?i of Ruins near Palen- 
que, 53, 107,) takes notice of "brass medals," (I presume 
copper,) which have been found in various parts of Guate- 
mala in considerable numbers. From his description and the 
plate annexed to the memoir, they appear to have been about 
four or five inches in diameter. He does not inform us 
whether these medals were casts, or simple plates of copper, 
upon which emblematical or ornamental figures have been 
engraved or cut, but we presume they were of the latter 
species. I consider them to have been ornaments that were 
worn on the persons of great men. They are engraved on 
both sides, according to the description he has given of one 
at his 54th page. 

Vessels of silver, according to the same authority, have 
been found in a cavern in the province of Chiapa, {Del Rio, 
107,) one of which on being brought to a priest, was so much 
like "a silver chalice," that it was afterwards used in the ser- 
vice of the altar. Cabrera thinks this circumstance supports 
the early opinion of the Spaniards that St. Thomas had 
preached the gospel in America! 

Juarros mentions incidentally, slars-haped ornaments of 
gold and silver that v/ere worn by the Quiche nobility; and 
Herrera {Hist. Jirner. iii. 297,) says, the goldsmiths ainong 
the Nicaraguans, "wrought and cast gold extraordinary cu- 

They also made jars, and other vessels of clay, and stone, 
for economical and ornamental purposes. Of these, how- 
ever, we can give little account. Two ornamented vases of 
granite found on the coast of Honduras, have been described 
in the Archtelogia, v. 318, and a plate of them with the 
above reference may be seen in Humboldt, Res. i. 90. 

Idols made of stone or clay, are frequently described by 
the early writers of Guatemala, but we have no account of 
them whereby we might judge of their proficiency in the 
statuary art. As idolatrous objects, we shall take notice of 
them in an ensuing page. 


Among other indications of an advanced state of demi- 
civilization, we observe in the history of Herrera, that the 
people of Guatemala carried on a considerable trade with one 
another. Their traffic was by barter or exchange of commo- 
dities; but it appears also from Herrera, [Hist, turner, iii. 
299, 340,) that they generally recognized, like the Mexicans, 
the nuts of the cacao as a kind of money, or intermediate 
article of barter. 

The natives of Yucatan, traded to a considerable extent 
with those of Honduras, going thither "by sea in canoes 
carrying cloth, feather work, and other things, in exchange 
for which they took home cacao." [Herrera, i. 259. iv. 

Apoxpalan, a merchant of Acalan in Honduras, [Herrera, 
iii. 360,) "drove a great trade in cotton, cacao, slaves, salt, 
gold, red snails, which they wore as ornaments, rosin, per- 
fumes for their temples, hearts of pine trees to light them, 
colours and dyes to paint themselves in time of war and on 
festivals, besides other commodities; and accordingly he had 
factors in several towns where fairs were kept," 

Herrera says this Apoxpalan was lord of Acalan, "it being 
the custom of this province to choose the wealthiest merchant 
of the place for their ruler." 

In Nicaragua, [Herrera, iii. 340,) the natives held regu- 
lar markets, and sold their goods for cacao instead of money. 

I presume, that houses of accommodation like the oriental 
caravanseras, were erected at certain places in Guatemala, 
for the accommodation of merchants. Bernal Dias, [Conq. 
of Mexico, 412,) who marched with Cortez on an expedi- 
tion into this country, observes on one occasion, "we passed 
on our road some large buildings, where the travelling mer- 
chants of the Indians are used to slop." 

We have already called the reader's attention to the fact, 
that we have less information concerning the aboriginal con- 
dition of Guatemala, than perhaps of any other demi-civilized 
part of America, to which our meagre account of these peo- 
ple is abundant testimony. But as we have yet other mat- 
ters to state which must raise the ancient people of this 
kingdom, to a rank among the most eminent nations of this 
continent as far as civilization is concerned, we must endea- 
vour to impress on the minds of those persons curious in our 
disquisitions, the inevitable conclusion, that nations who had 
made the proficiency in the arts of architecture and design, 
which we shall immediately describe, must have equally ex- 
celled in all those more ordinary particulars of demi-civili- 
zation, which from our want of information, or the careless- 


ness of the Spanish conquerors and early writers, we have 
not been able to describe better than in our preceding pages. 
These observations, which anticipate our subject in part, 
we have been induced to make at the present time, as we 
shall not be able hereafter to resume the consideration of 
these particular matters. 

Of the ^Architectural Monuments of Guatemala. 

We shall now proceed to describe some of those archi- 
tectural monuments of the ancient people of Guatemala, 
which evince the long settlement of a powerful, ingenious, 
and civilized people in that country; who probably wasted 
by internal wars during a succession of ages, became a com- 
paratively easy prey to an army of barbarous Spaniards and 
Indians, who ravaged and desolated this interesting region, 
destroying every thing whose character was not as indestruc- 
tible as the very rocks themselves. 

Of the many ancient monuments of Guatemala, we have 
no account so complete as that which Del Rio, A. D. 1787, 
communicated to the king of Spain, concerning the ruins of 
an ancient city near Palenque in the province of Chiapa. 
From this memoir, hardly known in the United States, we 
shall now make copious extracts. 

''From Palenque," {Dd. Rio. jj. 3,) "the last town north- 
ward in the province of Ciudad Real de Chiapa, taking a S. 
W. direction and ascending a ridge of high land that divides 
the kingdom of Guatemala from Yucatan or Campeachy, at 
the distance of two leagues is the little river Micol, whose 
waters flowing in a westerly direction unite with the great 
river Tulija. Having passed the Micol, the ascent begins, 
and at half a league from thence, the traveller crosses a little 
stream called Otolum, discharging its waters into the before 
mentioned current. From this point, heaps of ruins are 
discovered, which render the road very difficult for another 
half league, when you gain the height whereon the stone 
houses are situated, being fourteen in number, some more 
dilapidated than others, but still having many of their apart- 
ments perfectly discernible. 

"A rectangular area three hundred yards* in breadth, by 
four hundred and fifty in length, presents a plain at the base 
of the highest mountain forming the ridge, and in the centre 
is situated the largest of these structures which has been as 

* I presume the word yard, to be a translation of the Spanish vara, which 
15 about thirty- three inches in length. 


yet discovered.* It stands on a mound twenty yards high, 
and is surrounded by the other edifices, namely, five to the 
northward, four to the south, one to the south west, and 
three to the eastward. 

''In all directions around, the fragments of other fallen 
buildings are to be seen, extending along the mountain that 
stretches east and west about three or four leagues either 
wa}''; so that the whole range of this ruined town may be 
computed to extend between seven and eight leagues, but 
its breadth is by no means equal to its length, being but lit- 
tle above a half league wide. 

"The interior of the large building, is in a style of archi- 
tecture strongly resembling the Gothic, and from its rude 
and massive construction promises great durability. The 
entrance is on the eastern side by a portico or corridor thir- 
ty-six varas or yards in length, and three in breadth; sup- 
ported by plain rectangular pillars without either bases or 
pedestals, upon which there are square smooth stones of 
more than a foot in thickness forming an architrave, while 
on the exterior superficies are a species of stucco shields, 
the designs of which accompany this report. Over these 
stones there is another plain rectangular block, five feet 
long, and six broad, extending over two of the pillars. Me- 
dallions or compartments in stucco, containing different de- 
vices of the same material, appear as decorations to the 
chambers, and it is presumable, from the vestiges of the 
heads which can still be traced, that they were the busts of 
a series of kings or lords to whom the natives were subject. 
Between the medallions, there is a range of windows like 
niches, passing from one end of the wall to the other; some 
of them are square, some in form of a Greek cross, and 
others which complete the cross are square, being about two 
feet high and eight inches deep. Beyond this corridor, 
there is a square court, entered by a flight of seven steps. 
The north side is entirely in ruins, but sufficient traces re- 
main to shew that it once had a chamber and corridor, simi- 
lar to those on the eastern side, and which continued entirely 
along the several angles. The south side has four small 
chambers, with no other ornaments than one or two little 
windows like those already described. The western side is 

* Del Rio, page 5, says, "there is a stone aqueduct of great solidity and 
durability which passes under the largest building." Of this very interest- 
ing particular he communicates no further information, which shews how 
slightly he has described those ruins. Juarros, (Hist. Guat. 209,) also makes 
brief mention of this aqueduct, which he relates, to be "of sufficient dimen- 
sions for a man to walk upright in," and that "it yet exists almost entire." 
But his notice does not extend further. 


correspondent to its opposite in all respects, but in the va- 
riety of expression of the figures in stucco, these are much 
more rude and ridiculous than the others, and can only be 
attributed to the most uncultivated Indian capacity. 

"Proceeding in the same direction, (no course given nor 
can we guess it,) there is another court, similar in length to 
the last but not so broad, having a passage round it that 
communicated with the opposite side: in this passage there 
are two chambers like those above mentioned, and an inte- 
rior gallery looking on one side upon the court yard, and 
commanding on the other a view of the open country. In 
this part of the edifice some pillars yet remain, on which are 
relievos apparently representing a mournful subject, allud- 
ing no doubt to the sacrifice of some wretched Indian, the 
destined victim of a sanguinary religion. 

''Returning to the south side, the tower delineated in fig. 
12, (Del. Rios Memoir,) presents itself to notice: its height 
is sixteen yards, and to the four existing stories of the build- 
ing, was perhaps added a fifth, with a cupola, which in all 
probability it once possessed. Although these piles dimin- 
ish in size, and are without ornament, yet the design of 
them is singular and very ingenious. This tower has a well 
imitated artificial entrance, as was clearly proved by making 
a horizontal excavation of more than three yards, which I 
wished to carry quite through the edifice, but was forced to 
desist from the operation, as the stones and earth slipped 
down in large quantities from the pressure of the solid body 
that passes through its centre. This, upon inspection, 
proved to be an interior tower, quite plain, with windows 
fronting the former, and gives light to the steps by which 
you are enabled to ascend to its summit. 

"Behind the four chambers already mentioned, there are 
two others of larger dimensions, very well ornamented in 
the rude Indian style, and which appear to have been used 
as oratories. Beyond the oratories, and extending from 
north to south, there are two apartments each twenty-seven 
yards long, by little more than three broad: they contain 
nothing worthy of notice, excepting a stone of an elliptical 
form, embedded in the wall about a yard above ihe pavement, 
the height of which is one yard and a quarter, and the 
breadth one yard. 

"Below the elliptical stone above described, there is a 
plain rectangular block, more than two yards long, by one 
yard and four inches broad, and seven inches thick, placed 
upon four feet in form of a table, with a figure in bas-relief 
in the attitude of supporting it. 


"At the extremity of the last mentioned apartment, and 
on a level with the pavement, there is an aperture like a 
hatchway, two yards long, and more than one broad, leading 
to a subterranean passage by a flight of steps, which at a re- 
gular distance form flats or landings, each having its respec- 
tive doorway ornamented on the front." 

It is impossible to comprehend Del Rio's description of 
the many entrances to the subterranean apartments of this 
building. All we can understand, is, that artificial light was 
necessary to enable him to descend into these "gloomy 
chambers," which he describes as being two in number, 
each about sixty-four yards long; but he does not state their 
breadth. "Neither bas-reliefs nor any other embellishments 
were found in these places, nor did they present to notice 
any object excepting some plain stones, two yards and a half 
long, by one and a quarter yard broad, arranged horizontally 
upon four square stands of masonry, rising above half a yard 
above the ground. 

"From this place I proceeded to one of the buildings si- 
tuated on an eminence to the south, of about forty yards in 
height. This edifice forming a parallelogram, resembled 
the first in its style of architecture; it has square pillars, an 
exterior gallery, and a saloon twenty yards long by three 
and a half broad, embellished with a frontispiece on which 
are described female figures with children in their arms of 
the natural size, executed in stucco medio-reliefs. 

"In the inner wall of the gallery, and on each side of the 
door leading into the saloon, there are three stones measur- 
ing three yards in height, and being upwards of one broad, 
all of them covered with hieroglyphics in bas-relief. The 
whole of this gallery and saloon is paved. Leaving this 
structure, and passing by the ruins of many others, or per- 
haps what is more probable of many buildings accessary to 
this principal edifice, the declivity conducts to a little valley 
or open space, whereby the approach to another house in a 
southerly direction is rendered practicable," &:c. 

"Eastward of this structure, are three small eminences 
forming a triangle, upon each of which is a square building, 
eighteen yards long by eleven broad, of the same architec- 
ture as the former; but having along their roofings, several 
superstructures about three yards high resembling turrets, 
covered with different ornaments and devices in stucco. In 
the interior of the first of these three mansions, at the end 
of a gallery almost entirely dilapidated, is a saloon, having 
a small chamber at each extremity, while in the centre of 
the saloon, stands an oratory rather more than three yards 


square, presenting on each side of the entrance a perpendi- 
cular stone, whereon is portrayed the image of a man in 
bas-relief. Upon entering, I found the entire front of the 
oratory occupied by three stones joined together, on which 
objects are allegorically represented. The outward decora- 
tion is confined to a sort of moulding, finished with small 
stucco bricks, on which are bas-reliefs. The pavement of 
the oratory is quite smooth, and eight inches thick." 

We shall omit any further particulars of the ruins of this 
ancient city, except to state, that these buildings were erect- 
ed with a mortar of lime; a fact incidentally mentioned by 
Del Rio, page 20, who says, he had forwarded specimens of 
that cement for the inspection of the king. 

Among the books that I have consulted on the antiquities 
of Guatemala, I have been unable to find any account or tra- 
dition, that gives us the least information concerning the foun- 
ders of this ancient city. Del Rio does not appear to have 
known even its original appellation. Juarros {Hist. Guat. 
19, 209,) seems to say that it was called Culhuacan. He also 
relates that the ruins were not discovered by the Spaniards 
until the middle of the eighteenth century, but this must 
surely be a mistake, and he can only mean that he would find 
no historical account of it at an earlier period; which will 
convey a sad idea of the apathy of his countrymen on such 
subjects, and justify the hope that we may yet receive rela- 
tions of the greatest importance from scientific travellers, who 
may be able to examine this almost unknown, and highly in- 
teresting country. 

With even the scanty information we possess, it is evident 
that Guatemala abounds with curious and extensive architec- 
tural monuments, but which the nature of our essay prohibits 
us to more than enumerate in certain particulars. Juarros, 
page 209, says, the ruins of Tulha, another deserted city in 
the province of Chiapa, "are sumptuous," though he gives 
us no description; and his brief account of the antiquities of 
Copan and the Cave of Tibulco, of Utatlan, Patinamit, &c., 
prove how many monuments are yet undescribed, when even 
the extensive ruins of Culhuacan were not known to the 
Spanish writers more than about sixty or seventy years since. 

To make this part of our disquisition as complete as possi- 
ble, and which indeed from the scantiness of other materials, 
we are compelled to introduce in order to establish the demi- 
civilization of the Guatemalan nations, we shall make some 
further extracts from Del Rio, to shew the identity of cha- 
racter and design among the various monuments of the coun- 
try, as far as his research and information extended. By 


this means we shall be better able to enter into the discussion 
of other matters not so well known. Del Rio {Descript. of 
Jlnct. City near Palenque, p. 7,) describes certain monu- 
ments in the province of Yucatan, which the reader will per- 
ceive are expressly compared with the ruins of Culhuacan 
near Palenque. 

"At the distance of twenty leagues from Merida, south- 
ward, between the curacy called Mona y Ticul and the town 
of Nocacab, are the remains of some stone edifices; one very 
large building has withstood the ravages of time, and still 
exists in good preservation. The natives give it the name 
of Oxmutal. It stands on an eminence of twenty yards in 
height, and measures two hundred yards on each facade. 
The apartments, the exterior corridor, the pillars with figures 
in medio-relievo, are decorated with serpents, lizards, &c. 
formed in stucco; besides which are statues of men with 
palms in their hands, in the act of beating drums and dancing, 
resembling in every respect those observable in the buildings 
of Palenque. Eight leagues distant from the same city, to 
the northward, are the ruined walls of several other houses, 
which increase in number as you advance eastwardly. 

"In the vicinity of the river Lagartos, at a town called 
Mani, which is under the actual jurisdiction of the Francis- 
can friars, in the middle of the principal square, stands a pil- 
lory of a conical shape built of stone, and to the southward, 
rises a very ancient palace resembling that at Palenque, which 
according to tradition, was inhabited upon the arrival of the 
Spanish conquerors by a pett)'^ Indian sovereign called Htul- 
rio, who resigned it to the Franciscans for a residence while 
their convent was building. The erection of this palace was 
long anterior to the time of Htulrio, who replied to the in- 
quiries of the fathers relative to the period of its construction, 
that he was totally ignorant of its origin, and only knew that 
it had been inhabited by his ancestors. From hence we may 
draw some inference respecting the very remote antiquity of 
the edifices at Palenque, buried for so many ages in the im- 
penetrable thickets covering a mountain and unknown to the 
historians of the new world, by whom no mention whatso- 
ever is made of their existence. On the road from Merida 
to Bacalar, there are also many other buildings both to the 
north and south," &c. 

But if the reader has been surprised with the description 
of such extensive and even magnificent architectural ruins, 
which appear to be also not unfrequent in the kingdom of 
Guatemala, we conceive that a greater source of wonder will 
be found in what we have to say concerning the drawings, 


sculptures, and hieroglyphics, found on the walls of these 
ancient monuments. 

Appended to Del Rio's memoir, are seventeen plates, con- 
taining drawings of the various objects observed by him at 
the city near Palenque, and which are chiefly representations 
of the hieroglyphic or emblematical figures, to which he re- 
fers in various pages of his description. 

Any one conversant with the picture books of the Mexi- 
cans, will be immediately struck with the very great superi- 
ority of the drawings exhibited by the Guatemalan artists, 
which we have every reason to think have been faithfully 
copied by Del Rio, as is manifested by the extreme minute- 
ness with which all the details are expressed. The tout en- 
semble^ has a character peculiar to itself, entirely different 
from any thing observable in the European style of drawing. 
We must also take notice of the identity of character pre- 
served in every one of the plates, which to one accustomed 
to use the pencil, is not only abundant proof of the skill of 
the artist, but when these figures are unlike those to which 
we are accustomed, it becomes almost conclusive that the 
copy has been faithfully made. 

In the decorations of the heads of the figures, we certainly 
discern something like the drawings of the Mexicans, who 
by this means expressed the name, history, or character of 
the individual thus represented, and which we may reasona- 
bly presume, answers the same intention in the Guatemalan 
drawings. But in the form of the body and limbs, and in the 
attitudes in which they are exhibited in Del Rio's plates, we 
have an accuracy ot anatomical form and proportion, very far 
exceeding any thing hitherto found in Mexico. I know not 
whether the proportions of the human body are better repre- 
sented by any European artist not of the first excellence; but 
at any rate, we may safely say, they are fully equal to the 
better class of sculptures among the Hindoos, as exhibited 
for instance, in the numerous plates to Moor's Hindu Pan- 

This correctness of anatomical proportion in a sculpture of 
the people of Guatemala, which fell under the examination of 
Baron Humboldt, excited his doubts of its being altogether 
an aboriginal drawing, from the very circumstance of its be- 
ing so much superior to those of the Mexicans. His scep- 
ticism, however, arose from the belief that the sculpture 
which he denominates "Mexican monument found at Oaxa- 
ca," {Plate xi. Paris edition, folio,) was brought to him as 
being of Mexican design. This was found to be a mistake, 
which he corrects in the notes to his Atlas Pittoresquc 320, 



or tn the English translation, ii. 254, where he 
says the monument in question was found near the 
city of Guatemala. 

In the plates to Del Rio's memoir, is one repre- 
senting this same subject, and is copied perhaps 
from the very same sculpture, as the figures are 
exactly alike excepting some unimportant finish- 
ing in the ornamental decorations of the head. 
We are thus further enabled to establish Del Rio's 
claim to exactness as a copyist, and having ascer- 
tained this point in one instance, we may the more 
willingly rely upon the other drawings he has giv- 
en; for in ever}^ one of the ten plates that contain 
human figures, is the very same style of design, 
and all are equally correct in anatomical propor- 
tions as the one described by Baron Humboldt as 
above quoted. The anticipated want of sufficient 
patronage prevents our furnishing the reader with 
a copy of some of the interesting drawings of 
Del Rio's memoir. 

But the most curious and important matter of 
Del Rio's plates, are the hieroglyphic characters 
connected with several of those figures, whose ex- 
act forms and proportions vve have just described. 

As it is impossible by any language of descrip- 
tion, to convey an idea of the nature of these 
hieroglyphic figures, we have selected for the 
purpose of illustrating our subject, a column of 
them, arranged in perpendicular order* opposite 
to the back of a remarkable personage, whom we 
presume to be a priest. 

If we could have been able to exhibit a copy of 
the whole plate from which the annexed column 
has been extracted, it would be unnecessary to ob- 
serve that the figures in the margin are not mere 
fanciful ornaments to the other parts of the sculp- 
ture, as persons unaccustomed to Mexican anti- 
quities might suppose to be the case. 

My first impression on viewing these hiero- 
glyphics, was, that they were marks of days or 
years, according to a system analogous to that we 
have already described in our account of the Mex- 

* We have not thought it amiss to observe, that other series of these hiero- 
glyphics are placed in a horizontal line, and some like the two sides of a 
right angle, one side of which is horizontal, and the other depending from 
the right hand end. 


ican astronomy. But a very little examination shewed that 
these hieroglyphics were not simple, but compound figures. 
I then supposed, that as the Mexicans had used their simple 
hieroglyphics in periodical series, that possibly these com- 
pound figures were made by the union of the different figures 
of a periodic series, which when thus combined, composed 
each group of the Guatemalan hieroglyphics. 

But though I think, that generally, three figuies may be 
discerned in each group, yet there are others apparently com- 
posed of two, four, and five figures, which not only destroys 
the regularity of such a composition as I had supposed, but 
it is evident besides, that this is not the key to the construc- 
tion of the hieroglyphic group; for we ought then to find at 
least one or more figures in each compound, like the one 
which precedes or follows any particular group, which is not 
the case. 

I am therefore unable to perceive any principle which 
would shew them to be hieroglyphic marks arranged either 
in an arithmetic or chronological order. 

That these hieroglyphics express ideas, we can hardly 
doubt, as similar arrangements of them are annexed to various 
personages in Del Rio's plates, which are entirely different 
both in order and composition from those attached to any 
other figure. In a few instances, we have observed the re- 
petition of some of the groupings in a different arrangement; 
but the component parts of the groups, may be frequently 
seen in the composition of different groups, united with other 
parts not found repeated. 

Hence I would infer, that each group conveys an idea or 
sense analogous to the characters of the Chinese, who after 
making the mark of the radical, annex to it various other sig- 
nificant marks, by which the sense is almost infinitely ex- 
tended in each genus of their ideas. To express myself more 
distinctly, we observe that among the Chinese the heart is a 
genus, whose radical mark perhaps originally of that shape, 
is now expressed by a curve line. By the addition of other 
significant marks to this radical, all the sentiments, passions, 
and affections, are denoted which can be referred to our mo- 
ral feelings or sensibilities, and thus in like manner with the 
other characters of their writing. 

The Chinese characters in present use, bear no resemblance 
to the objects they once represented; but this is supposed to 
have ensued from the greater facility with which the present 
marks are made, being the result of the changes constantly 
taking place in every succeeding age, by which each genera- 
tion of writers endeavoured to simplify the characters used 


by their predecessors. But originally, according to the best 
authority, {Morrison, Chin. Diet. x. ) it seems highly pro- 
bable, perhaps ''unquestionable," that the characters of the 
Chinese language "originated in pictures of visible objects, 
and from thence by allusion gradually extended from things 
visible and capable of being represented, to things immate- 
rial and beyond the cognizance of the senses." This I be- 
lieve is also the opinion of the Chinese themselves. 

Assuming therefore the fact, that the characters of the Chi- 
nese writing were originally hieroglyphics more or less 
abridged in the drawing, I think we may safely infer, 
that the Guatemalans had proceeded on a similar plan, and 
that their hieroglyphics do not represent sounds or words, but 
ideas, which by some arbitrary system are connected together, 
so as to convey to the mind those particulars of history or 
religion, they might consider important to record. 

Though we labour under the very great disadvantage of 
not knowing the real signification of these hieroglyphics, I 
think we cannot be wrong in considering them as expressing 
ideas on the Chinese plan. But as the monuments of Pa- 
lenque are still in existence, it is to be hoped that some man 
of science will ere long ascertain the real nature of these sin- 
gular hieroglyphics with greater force of argument than we 
have been able to apply to the subject. 

We have no information whether similar hieroglyphic 
characters are found in other parts of Guatemala, a circum- 
stance, however, we need not be surprised at; for Del Rio 
does not clearly appear to me, to have been aware of those 
that he has depicted in his plates of the ruins of Palenque. 
But as he describes some monuments in Yucatan to be adorn- 
ed with figures of men and animals, similar to those he has 
described on the ruins of that ancient city, it is by no means 
improbable that the hieroglyphic characters are to be ob- 
served there also. 

Of the Books, and Scientific Jittainments of the Guate- 
malan Nations. 

We have abundant proof that the natives of the various 
provinces of Guatemala had many books among them when 
they were first invaded by the Spaniards. They are parti- 
cularly mentioned as having been found in Yucatan, Hondu- 
ras and Nicaragua. {Jicosta, Nat. and Mor. Hist. lib. 6. 
chap. 7; Herrera, iii. 300, iv. 164, 165, 175, &c.) These 
books are in general terms described to have been made of 
the leaves of trees, square, and folded like bellows, "in which 
after their manner, was contained the distribution of their 


times, (calendars) the knowledge of plants, beasts, tHeir an- 
tiquities, and other curious matters," &c. 

The general comparison is also made that they were like 
the pictured writings of the Mexicans. "They used the 
same figures instead of letters as those of Mexico," says 
Heirera; by which we can understand that they were hiero- 
glvphical in their appearance; but that they were exactly 
like those of the Mexicans I question whether the Spanish 
barbarians took the trouble to ascertain. For at an early 
period, some stupid priests caused all the books they could 
lay their hands on to be committed to the flames, as contain- 
ing "matters of enchantment and witchcraft." 

By this deplorable fanaticism and stupidity, we are left 
almost entirely in ignorance concerning the science, religion, 
and history, of this most interesting part of America. Can 
we cherish the hope excited by Baron Humboldt, that a con- 
siderable number of historical paintings, after the lapse of 
three hundred years, may be still found in the hands of the 
Indians of Oaxaca, Yucatan, Guatemala, &c. ? Let us at least 
hope, that some of the literati of Europe will make an at- 
tempt to explore this unknown part of America, and recover 
those things, that time has spared to this day. 

Among all the collections of picture writings usually de- 
nominated Mexican, that have been preserved by European 
curiosity, there are none that I know of that are considered 
of Guatemalan fabrication; at any rate, none are so designated 
by Baron Humboldt, the only savant who has treated ex- 
pressly of such subjects. Yet I cannot but think it highly 
probable, that one at least, has been preserved from the ge- 
neral destruction, which that great antiquarian has introduced 
in his Atlas Pittoresque, without particular recognition. We 
allude to the hieroglyphic manuscript preserved in the royal 
library of Dresden, of which a specimen is furnished in the 
45th plate of Humboldt's splendid work. 

We are induced to make this observation on that manu- 
script, from perceiving that around the figures of men and 
animals depicted on the pages, are a number of hieroglyphic 
characters, arranged in horizontal lines as if containing mat- 
ters of comment or explanation. That these characters are 
really ideographic, I think will be the impression of every 
one that inspects the plate of Baron Humboldt's atlas, and 
from being so much like the characters depicted in Del Rio's 
monuments of Palenque, I presume, is plausible ground to 
infer a Guatemala origin for the Dresden manuscript.* 

=* Peter Martyr, (HackluyVs W Indies, 168,) describes the books of the 
people of Yucatan, to be written "in characters which are very unlike ours, 


Baron Humboldt calls this manuscript Azteck or Mexican, 
but as he was ignorant of its existence, until after his great 
work on the monuments of America was actually in press, 
he had not sufficient time to investigate particularly its his- 
tory and origin. It is said in the English translation of 
Humboldt's Researches, that this manuscript was purchased 
at Vienna, by the librarian Goetze, in his literary journey to 
lialy A. D. 1739. The Baron's words are not so positive, 
being, "paroit avoir ete achete a Vienne." The correction, 
however, in this instance is not of much consequence. 

Humboldt describes it to be drawn upon paper made of 
metl, (Agave Mexicana,) and like other manuscripts he had 
procured in Mexico: "but what renders it most remarkable, 
is the disposition of the simple hieroglyphics, many of which 
are arranged in lines as in a real symbolic writing. On com- 
paring the 45th plate with the 13th, and 27th, we see that 
the Codex Mexicanus of Dresden, resembles none of those 
rituals, in which the image of the astrological sign, that go- 
verns the half lunation or small period of thirteen days, is 
surrounded by asterisms of lunar days. Here a great num- 
ber of simple hieroglyphics follow each other without con- 
nexion, as in the Egyptian hieroglyphics, and the keys of 
the Chinese." {Humboldt, Res. ii. 146) 

We cannot but regret, that this great archaeologist had not 
sufficient time to study this singular manuscript at full lei- 
sure; for we can only suggest considerations derived from 
his plates, under every disadvantage that could embarrass 
the investigation. But we cannot err in saying, that not 
only the hieroglyphic characters of this manuscript, distin- 
guish it from all others of Mexican workmanship, but the 
very drawings of men and animals, and particularly of the 
former, are much superior to any similar work of undoubted 
Mexican fabrication, as far as they are represented in the 
Atlas Pittoresque. We have therefore two particulars, first, 
in the hieroglyphic characters, and secondly, in the superior 
drawing, by which we may be apparently justified in the be- 
lief, that the Dresden manuscript is not of Mexican origin; 
and in these points of difference, it agrees with what we 
should expect from the hands of the Guatemalan artists. 

but written after our manner, line after line, with characters like small dice, 
fish hooks, snares, files, stars, and other such like forms and shapes; and be- 
tween the lines, they paint the shapes of men and beasts, especially of their 
kings and nobles." 

This relation seems to agree very well with the character of the Dresden 
manuscript; and Peter Martyr's description of the proper Mexican books at 
page -234, will justify the belief, that the last were different ia appearance 
from the former. 


But having this presumptive proof that the Dresden man- 
uscript was not derived from the hands of the Mexicans, 
can we be altogether certain that it was painted or written 
in Guatemala? This new source of embarrassment arises 
from the singular fact, that the Panoes, a people of the pre- 
sent kingdom of Peru, have pictured books among them, 
the description of which will also in general accord with the 
appearance of the Dresden manuscript. 

The Panoes live on the banks of the Ucayale river, the 
principal branch of the Amazon, a little to the north of the 
mouth of the Sarayacu,(lat, 6° 30' S. Ion. 72° 30' W.) They 
are considered at present but a barbarous tribe, though in 
fact, we hardly know any thing concerning them. Hum- 
boldt, (JRes. i. 174,) gives us a most interesting particular of 
their history on the authority of a respectable Spanish mis- 
sionary who had visited them, and procured one of the books 
seen in their possession, which was sent to Lima for literary 
examination. After a slight inspection by several persons 
of that metropolis, this interesting book disappeared, and 
has not been discovered since. 

According to the account given to Baron Humboldt of this 
manuscript, by the missionary and those who had seen it at 
Lima, it resembled our volumes in quarto, "pieces of tolera- 
bly fine cotton cloth formed the leaves, which were fastened 
by threads of the agave. Every page was covered with 
paintings. These were figures of men and of animals, and a 
o-reat number of isolated characters which were deemed hi- 
eroglyphical, arranged in lines with admirable order and 
symmetry. The liveliness of the colours was particularly 
striking," &c. 

Hence the description of this book of the Panoes, as far 
as respects the figures and hieroglyphics on the pages, is very 
similar to those of the Dresden manuscript, and we are not 
a little perplexed to decide, whether it be from the Panoes, 
or of Guatemalan origin. The arguments in favour of the 
last supposion, are its similarity in details to the drawings 
of men, and the hieroglyphic characters, copied by Del Rio 
from the ruins near Palenque, and also that it is painted upon 
paper made from the Mexican aloe; which manufacture we 
have hitherto considered peculiar to the Mexicans, Guate- 
malans, &c. 

The book of the Panoes is described to have been made of 
tolerably fine cotton cloth, '*the pages of which were fasten- 
ed by threads of the agave," (aloe.) In this particular it 
differs from the Dresden manuscript, which is of paper made 
from the agave, but this circumstance is not altogether con 


elusive, for the Panoes may have had books also made from 
the agave, the thread of which they are said to have used in 
fastening the leaves of the book sent to Lima. 

The possibility of procuring a book from the Panoes, is 
attended with very great difficulties from their remote inland 
situation; yet Quesada, Huten, and some other ruffians, 
{Humboldt^ Pers. Nar. v. 820,) had reached near their 
very neighbourhood in the middle of the 16th century, when 
searching after the city of the famous El Dorado, and might 
have obtained the manuscript in question; or it may have 
been procured by some Spanish trader or missionary at a 
much later period of time. 

We might cut the knot that embarrasses us by supposing 
the Panoes of Toltecan or Guatemalan descent, a suggestion 
intimated by Humboldt; but we are not justified by this one 
fact of their having pictured books, to make that supposition; 
for certainly there is nothing exclusively Toltecan in the in- 

Under these circumstances of perplexity, the safest course 
we can follow, is, after putting the reader on his guard by 
the above recital, to consider at least for the present, that 
the Dresden manuscript is of Guatemalan fabrication; as it 
presents greater internal evidence in favour of such an hy- 
pothesis, and there are perhaps fifty chances to one, between 
the probabilities of procuring it from Guatemala than from 
the remotely situated Panoes. 

We are unacquainted with any other matters of a scientific 
nature involved in the history of the Guatemalan nations, 
excepting their astronomic calendars; whose features we per- 
ceive were exactly like those of the Mexicans, concerning 
which we have discoursed at length in the preceding chap- 
ter. This conformity was to be expected; for the Mexicans 
attributed their knowledge of that system to the Toltecas, 
whose civilized institutions we have every reason to believe, 
were generally imparted to the Guatemalan nations. 

It was a fortunate circumstance that the early writers upon 
Mexican antiquities, preserved the plan or construction of 
these calendars in their histories of that kingdom; for though 
we can understand the allusions and comparisons made by 
the Spaniards, to the identity of the Guatemalan arrange- 
ment of time, with that of the Mexicans, yet without our 
previous knowledge of the subject, no one. would in the 
least suspect their ingenious and artificial composition, from 
any account we have hitherto seen of the people of Guate- 

In Honduras, according to Herrera, (Hisf. ^^mer. iv. 


141,) the natives called their year Joalor, {that which passes 
away,) dividing it into eighteen months, each of twenty 
days. So also in Nicaragua, {Herrera, iii. 300,) the same 
arrangement is implied in the expression, "the priests pro- 
claimed the festivals, being eighteen in number, as they did 
the months, standing on the steps of the place of sacrifice." 
In Yucatan, they appear to have had two modes of computa- 
tion, [Herrera^ iv. 176,) one of which vvas exactly the 
Mexican, or rather Toltecan calendar of eighteen months of 
twenty days, and five nemontemi. The other is thus descri- 
bed: "Their year was exact like ours, consisting of 365 
days, divided into twelve months, five days, and six hours. 
The months they called V,* signifying moon, and they 
reckoned from her first appearing new until she was not to 
be seen." 

I know not what to say upon this last distribution of time, 
for we have met with nothing similar to it amoiig any of the 
demi-civilized nations of America. In Peru, and among 
the barbarous nations, the year may be said to have been 
composed of months or moons, but in no case was it so ad- 
justed, as to complete the entire number of days in a solar 
year. I rather suspect, it was a common lunar year that 
Herrera has thus described, though he is certainly very ex- 
act in his account of its divisions and parts. The reader 
will understand, that it is only to the division into twelve 
months that we demur; for the Toltecas knew the exact 
length of the tropical year, as we have abundantly shewn in 
our discourse on the astronomy of the Mexicans. 

The Chiapenese, also divided their year into eighteen 
months of twenty days; and we have this additional infor- 
mation, that instead of using the twenty simple hierogly- 
phics of the Mexicans to distinguish the days of the month, 
they employed the names of twenty illustrious individuals 
of their ancient heroes; four of whom being particularly 
eminent, serve to distinguish the commencement of each 
sniall period of five days, into which the month was divided. 
As all these matters have been discussed in our history of 
the Mexican astronomy, we shall not again repeat our ob- 
servations in this place. 

Of the Religion of the Guatemalan Nations. 

Concerning the religion of the nations of Guatemala, we 
have collected some very curious particulars, but which as 

* I do not know whether Herrera means the sound of the letter V, i« 
Spanish vay; or the sound of the number V, cinco^ five. 


we have too often had occasion to lament, have been com- 
municated by the Spanish writers without order or method; 
sometimes in a diffuse relation, at other times being only 
mentioned incidentally, and often barely alluded to without 
reference to any other account. We shall endeavour to lay 
before the reader, all the information we have been able to 
procure, and in the most consistent manner we can devise, 
but which indeed, will too often appear in fragments, uncon- 
nected with the subject that may precede or may follow in 
our arrangement. 

The people of Yucatan, {Herrera, iv. 176,) believed in 
the immortality of the soul, and in separate places of exis- 
tence for the virtuous and the wicked after death, in which 
the former enjoyed every kind of happiness according to 
their estimation of felicity, and the latter suffered "hunger, 
cold, sorrow and torment." 

These people, according to Herrera, "knew that the plagues 
and calamities that befel them, were occasioned by their sins, 
and therefore they used confession when sick or in any dan- 
ger of death. They declared their sins in public, (i. e. 
openly) and if they omitted any thing, their kindred put 
them in mind; the confession being made to the priest if 
present, or else to fathers or mothers, or wives to their hus- 
bands. The sins so confessed, were theft, murder, fornica- 
tion, and perjury; but they did not confess any sins of in- 
tention, though such were looked upon as evil." 

The practice of thus confessing sins, it may be presumed, 
was a general one throughout the kingdom; for it is men- 
tioned incidentally in several places, and particularly in Ni- 
caragua, {Herrera, iii. 300,) where they perhaps shewed 
some wisdom, in permitting matrimony to the priests who 
heard confessions, while they required celibacy from others 
not thus employed. 

The term, "confession of sins," I doubt not will sound very 
strangely to the ears of many of my readers, who consider- 
ing the words in a technical or theological sense, may be 
disposed to suggest many modes of explaining this practice 
among the Guatemalan Indians, rather than directly admit 
the simple fact. I presume, however, there is nothing so 
very singular in the staternent, when we consider, that these 
nations believed in the immortality of the soul, and future 
retribution for the good or evil actions of their lives. Hence 
believing that they lived under the superintendence of a 
special providence by whom they would be judged hereafter, 
nothing is more natural than that they should profess peni- 
tence for their misdeeds, which is all that is implied by the 


words, ''confessing their sins," i. e. they acknowledged that 
certain actions of their lives, had been wrong or improper, and 
by confessing them to have been such, tjfie inference is di- 
rect that they would not again repeat or commit them. 

Though it is evident that these confessions were made to 
"fathers, mothers, husbands,''" &c. yet it is very probable, 
they preferred making their profession of penitence to the 
priests, who would naturally be considered more wise and 
holy than ordinary individuals, as being engaged in the itn- 
mediate service of their deities, and therefore more potential 
in any application to be made in their behalf. 

Hence the simple belief in a superintending providence, 
would lead to the practice of confessing sins; then of pre- 
ferring a priest to advise or assist them, and finally would 
induce the belief, that the priests could not only procure 
them immunity for past transgressions, but also health and 
other temporal enjoyments. We may likewise suppose, that 
the priests were not inactive in establishing their own im- 
portance in these particulars; for they no doubt encouraged 
such a belief in the people, and confirmed their influence by 
fraudulent oracles and miracles, as we are indeed, expressly 
informed by Herrera. {Hist. Amer. iv. 173.) 

I apprehend, therefore, that nothing is more natural to any 
pagan nation possessing a moral sense, than the course pur- 
sued by the Guatemalans, and which may indeed, be perceiv- 
ed in the religious institutions of them all. Mr. Volney, 
(^Les Ruines, note 87,) in his zeal to attack Christianity, did 
not discriminate between the abuse of confession, as a priest- 
ly appendix to Christianity, and the natural conscientiousness 
of acknowledging our faults whenever we have done amiss. 
And he therefore makes the following observation, *'La con- 
fession etait practiquee dans les mysteres Egyptiens, Orecs, 
Phrygiens, Persians, &c." We do not doubt it has been 
practised in the same manner all over the pagan world. 

Herrera {Hist. Amer. iv. 172,) says, that baptism was 
known in Yucatan, though not in any other province of New 
Spain; he also says "the name they gave it, signified to be 
born again; believing they in it received a pure disposition 
to be good; that the devils could not hurt them, and that they 
were put in the way to bliss. No man could be married 
without it," &c. 

From the manner in which he describes the ensuing cer- 
emony to have been performed, I presume, that when the 
Yucatanese children reached a certain age, they were subject- 
ed to this aspersion, which will convey to us a pretty good 
idea of the real nature of the ceremony. The priest, says 


Herrera, "came oiit in long and decent vestments, with a 
sprinkler in his hand; white cloths were laid on the children's 
heads, and the biggest of them were asked whether they had 
committed any sin, and when they had confessed, they were 
set aside and blessed with certain prayers, shaking the sprink- 
ler at them, and dabbing their foreheads and features, and 
between their fingers and toes, with a sort of water they had 
in a horn. Then the priest took off the cloths from the 
children's heads, and having received some presents, the so- 
lemnity ended in feasting." 

Though Herrera calls this ceremony, ''baptism," it was 
certainly nothing more than one of those forms of lustration 
or purifying, which have been practised among all pagan na- 
tions who have attained a certain degree of civilization; and 
who naturally enough perceive the metaphorical propriety 
that exists between purity of life and manners, and the use of 
white and clean garments, or of clean water either applied 
by sprinkling or by ablutions of the person. A very little 
acquaintance with the rites of paganism sufficiently establishes 
this point. 

The ancient Persians, {Hyde Rel. Vet. Pers. 113,) the 
Greeks, {Patterns Grec. Jintiq. i. 176,) the Druids, {Tol- 
land, Hist. Druids, 305,) and almost every other civilized 
pagan nation made use of similar baptisms, as they have been 
called by various writers. Tertullian in Hyde, as above quo- 
ted, says, ''In suis etiam sacris habebant Mithriaci lavacra, 
(quasi regenerationis) in quibus tingit et ipse (sacerdos) quos- 
dam utique credentes et fideles suos, et expiatoria delecto- 
rum de lavacro repromittit, et sic adhuc initiat Mithrse." 

Mallet [North. Jintiq. i. 335, 336,) observes, ''It is re- 
markable that a kind of infant baptism was practised in the 
north, (of Europe) long before Christianity had reached those 
parts." Of this practice he cites various instances. 

Purchas reports from Gomara, or Peter Martyr, [Pilgrims, 
V. S85,) that "some of the idolaters of Yucatan were circum- 
cised, but not all." Is there any mistake in this matter? I 
have no means of ascertaining the truth. The fact, however, 
is not mentioned by Herrera, nor by any other Spanish wri- 
ter within my reach. I am inclined to think it a mis- 
conception, altogether arising from a slight observation of the 
self-lacerations, which these idolaters inflicted on themselves, 
by which they drew blood from wounds made in various 
parts of the body as well as from their privates, of which we 
shall speak hereafter. Supposing, however, that possibly Go- 
mara may be correct in his statement, I will observe, lest 
some of the advocates of the Jewish hypothesis, may claim 



this circumstance in their favour, that circumcision was not 
a ceremony peculiar to the Jews alone. It is very widely 
practised among the natives of the South sea islands, as may 
be seen in almost every voyager's account of that ocean. The 
Egyptians, Ethiopians, and Colchians, also practised this cere- 
mony from the remotest antiquity, which is not satisfactorily 
explained by the supposition that they acquired it from the 

That human sacrifices were made in various parts of Guate- 
mala we have express information. Grijalva, when he first 
arrived at the island of Cozumel, {Herrera, ii. 121,) found 
persons there who informed him of this particular; and we 
are instructed by the same authority, {Herrera, iii. 300, iv. 
154, 155, 169, 174,) that similar sacrifices were made in Yu- 
catan, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Their ritual appears to 
have been precisely similar to that of the Mexicans. Her- 
rera seems to think, these inhuman rites were not properly 
original institutions of the country, but had been derived 
from the Aztecks or Mexicans. This is probably but an er- 
roneous conjecture, for the universality of human sacrifices 
all over the pagan world, makes this superstitious cruelty too 
congenial to mankind, to seek its origin in a simple imitation 
of the barbarous rites of an adjoining people. It is, however, 
a reasonable supposition, that such sacrifices were much less 
frequent in this kingdom than in Mexico; for Herrera informs 
us, that "the office of ripping open the breasts of men sacri- 
ficed, which was honourable in Mexico, was not so here." 

We presume, they also sacrificed birds and smaller animals 
to their gods, and fumigated them with gum copal, &c. but 
of these particulars, we have not met with any account in 
Herrera or Juarros, except an incidental notice of the lat- 
ter practice at the island of Cozumel, where Herrera, ii. 169, 
also says, a high priest preached to the Indians while per- 
forming their idolatrous rites. 

In the account of the Nicaraguans given by Herrera, {Hist, 
^mer. iii. 301,) we perceive that they made religious pro- 
cessions in honour of their deities. The one that he has de- 
scribed, being important in its bearing upon other matters in 
our disquisition we shall extract at some length. 

"When the priest daubed the idol's face with the blood of 
the person sacrificed, the rest sang, and the people prayed 
with tears and devotion, and walked in procession, though 
not upon all festivals." At such times as they were made, 
«'the laymen carried little flags representing the idol they 

* Bishop Cumberland ( Third Remark on Sanconialho,) was of the same opin- 


held in most veneration, &c. The standard was the picture 
of the devil, set upon a spear carried by the oldest priest; they 
proceeded in order, the reli,c;ious men singing, to the place 
of the idolatrous worship. There they covered the ground 
with carpets, and strewed roses and flowers, that the devil 
might not touch the ground. The standard being fixed, the 
singing ceased, they fell to prayer, the prelate gave a stroke 
with his hand, they drew blood at their tongues, others at 
their ears, others at their privities, or according as their de- 
votion led them: they received the blood on a paper, or their 
fingers, and daubed the idol's face. In the mean time, the 
youth skirmished and danced in honour of the festival. At 
these processions, they blessed Indian wheat (maize) sprink- 
led with the blood of their genitals, which was distributed 
and eaten like blessed bread." 

We here perceive a ceremony analogous in certain parti- 
culars, to the one described when speaking of the religion of 
the Mexicans, where bread made with blood was consecrated 
and eaten by them as a part of their religious observances. 
The foregoing account of the Nicaraguans, affords additional 
confirmation to that extraordinary practice, which we have 
also shewn, has prevailed among many pagan nations of either 
continent the most remotely separated from each otlier. We 
shall not again repeat the observations made at that place, 
(page 240,) but it may not be altogether amiss, to call the 
attention of the reader to the statement made by Herrera, 
that the Nicaraguans sprinkled the maize used on such occa- 
sions with blood drawn from their genitals. 

As the wounds or injuries inflicted upon these organs, are 
more painful than upon any other part of the human body, it 
may be worth while to ask, why the blood used in the pre- 
paration of this consecrated maize, was drawn from these 
sensitive parts, in preference to that which they drew at the 
very same time from other members of the body? Was it 
selected with some metaphorical reference, as proceeding 
from sources of life? and by which, in a very gross manner,, 
they imparted the idea of something spiritually vivifying?* 
I shall not undertake to decide this question, though when 
taken in connection with other matters belonging to the re- 
ligion of the Mexicans, Peruvians, and the idolaters of the 
eastern continent, (see page 240,) it is not undeserving of se- 
rious consideration. We may very safely say, there was 

* The phallus was carried in the ancient mysteries of Egypt and Phoenicia, 
as an emblem of that mystical regeneration and new life to which the initia- 
ted had pledged themselves. Tcrtullian, (contra Valent:) says, "virile mem- 
brum totum esse mysterium." cyVarburton Div. Leg. i. 168, 169.) 


nothing lascivious connected with the ceremony, and the 
Spanish writers have attributed nothing of that nature to the 

The priests exercised great authority over the Guatemalan 
nations, and in not a few incidental relations of Herrera, they 
seem to have been at least equal with, if not superior to the 
caciques or kings of the country, Herrera states, that in Yu- 
catan, the people were "very submissive to the priests." 
We have already observed, that the Chiapenese priests chose 
the executive officers that ruled that nation, and on various 
occasions, the high priests of different provinces of this king- 
dom were present in time of battle, being posted along with 
the general of the army, who most commonly was also the 
king of the country. 

We may infer the great importance of the high priest 
among the people of Honduras and Nicaragua, by the follow- 
ing statement of Herrera. {Hist. Amer. iv. 155, 156.) When 
the high priest died, the people lamented him and fasted fif- 
teen days; but when the cacique, or the general, or even their 
own children died, they mourned for them but four days. 

From the frequent mention that is made of high priests, 
confessors, &c. and the implied distinction between them and 
other priests, there can be no doubt, there was a regular 
hierarchical establishment among th« different nations of 
Guatemala, but concerning this subject we have no informa- 
tion, except in a brief notice of the Pipils of Honduras, which 
we may presume, is a pretty fair exhibition of the general 
ecclesiastical establishments of the kingdom. "Besides their 
lord," [Herrera, iv. 154,) "they had an high priest, who 
wore a long blue garment, with a diadem on his head, and 
sometimes a mitre wrought with several colours, and at the 
labels of it a bunch of clivers coloured feathers, carrying a 
crozier like a bishop,* and was obeyed by all persons in 
spirituals. The next to him was a notable doctor in their 
books and soceries, who explained their omens. Four more 
priests there were clothed in several colours, all admitted to 
council in such things as appertained to their rites. A sa- 
crist kept the jewels and things that belonged to their sacri- 
fices, and pulled out the hearts of men sacrificed. Others 
sounded trumpets and such instruments as were used to call 
the people to the sacrifices." 

Among this people when the high priest died, his succes- 
sor was chosen by lot among the four members of his coun- 

* These words milre and crozier, are instances of the common practice of 
the first conquerors of America, to call things by names often founded in 
the slightest similiarity to those objects they had been accustomed in 


cil, as already stated. In Yucatan the office was hereditary 
and he was succeeded by his son. 

The dress of the priests in general {Herrera, iii. 301,) ap- 
pears to have been "white, short, some narrow, others had 
them hanging from their shoulders to their heels; with purses 
instead of tufts or tassels, in which they had sharp pieces 
of jet, papers, coals powdered, and certain herbs." 

The priests were not permitted to marry, excepting those 
who heard confessions. [Herrera, iii. 300.) 

I presume, that like the Mexicans, they had monks or ce- 
libates established in various parts of the kingdom. In the 
province of Honduras, we are informed {Herrera, iv. 139,) 
of the following particulars, which I consider points out 
such an institution. "In the fields were little houses, long 
and narrow, and high from the ground, in which were their 
gods of stone, clay, wood, &c. and with them were old men 
naked, who lived an austere life, wearing their hair very 
long wound in tresses about their heads; of them they asked 
advice in martial affairs, administration of justice, marriages, 
and the like, leaving them offerings of eatables, &c. None 
but the prime men might talk with those priests because they 
held them in great veneration." 

Though we find the Spanish writers constantly mentioning 
the temples of the natives of Guatemala, they liave scarcely 
given us an account of their form and construction. The 
most particular relation I have met with, is that of a temple 
at the island of Cozumel, when first visited by Grijalva. 
"They saw" {Herrera, ii. 121,) "several places of worship 
and temples, and particularly one in form like a square tower, 
wide at the bottom and hollow at the top, with four large 
windows and galleries; and in the hollow part being the cha- 
pel, were the idols, behind which was a sort of vestry, 
where the things belonging to the service of the temple 
were kept. At the foot of it, was an enclosure of lime and 
stone, with battlements, and plaistered," &c. 

This description agrees very exactly with the tower de- 
scribed by Del Rio among the ruins near Palenque, as may 
be seen page 296. 

We may likewise presume, that other monuments of that 
ruined city were for religious use, and also that the greater 
part of the architectural remains with which Guatemala ap- 
pears to abound, were also of this character. Herrera con- 
siders them in this light; for when speaking of what he 
calls "the stately stone buildings" of Yucatan, he remarks, 
"they seem to have been temples, for their houses were al- 
ways of timber and thatched." 


It is impossible for us to state from our scanty materials, 
whether the people of Guatemala erected any of those trun- 
cated pyramidal mounds with temples on their tops, such as 
we have described wlien speaking of the idolatry of the 
Mexicans. We presume, however, they did. Del Rio, as 
the reader may have observed in the extracts taken from his 
memoir, speaks frequently of the mounds upon which the 
ruins at Palenque are built, but he does not describe them 
particularly. Neither Herrera nor Juarros, make particu- 
lar mention of this matter. 

From Juarros we learn, that in certain instances, the peo- 
ple of Guatemala made use of caverns for religious worship, 
the description of which forcibly reminds us of the rock ca- 
verns and temples of Ellora, Elephanta, and other similar 
monuments of Hindoo workmanship. {Jls. Res. iv. 407, 
vi. 389, &c.) 

"The cave of Tibulca," {Juarros, 57,) "appears like a 
temple of great size hollowed out of the base of a hill, and 
is adorned with columns, having bases, pedestals, capitals, 
and crowns, all accurately adjusted according to architectural 
principles; at the sides are numerous windows, faced with 
stone exquisitely wrought." 

"The cavern of Mixco" {Juarros, 488,) "has a portico 
formed of clay; it is in some parts entire and appears to be 
of the Doric order. From the entrance, a flight of thirty- 
six stone steps descends to a lofty saloon about sixty yards 
square; from this chamber the descent continues by another 
flight, beyond which nothing more is known, as no person 
sufficiently courageous or imprudent enough to resist the tre- 
mulous motion of the ground under foot, has yet advanced 
more than a few paces. Descending eighteen steps of this 
second flight, there is on the right hand another door-way 
forming a perfect arch; and having passed this, there are six 
steps, in all similar to the former, from which there is a pas- 
sage about one hundred and forty feet in length. Further 
than this part it has not been explored; many extraordinary 
accounts of it have been fabricated, but they are such as will 
not bear repeating." 

We have no knowledge concerning the particular rites or 
service performed in these subterraneous temples. They 
have in the eastern continent, been devoted to the celebra- 
tion of the highest mysteries of paganism,* and in which, to 
use the words of an author not unfrequently eloquent, 

♦"Porphyry assures us, that holy grottos were symbols of the world, and 
the whole analogy of paganism proves him to be right in his assertion." 
(fa6er, Orig. Idol. i. 30.) 


{Maurice, Indian Antiq. ii. 393,) "the hoary sages of an- 
tiquity caused to be acted over again the mighty drama of 
life and of nature." 

But though we are ignorant of all the particulars connect- 
ed with the cavern temples of Tibulca and Mixco, the 
reader will not fail to observe, how much these things con- 
firm our belief that in Guatemala the most civilized and po- 
lished people of America were anciently established; and 
how much it is to be regretted, that their history, their hie- 
roglyphic books, and other matters that would have eluci- 
dated this subject, have perished perhaps without hope of 

Nevertheless, something may be yet done, and we cannot 
too earnestly urge the zeal of European antiquarians, to visit 
and explore the monuments of this most interesting country, 
before every thing falls under the apathy or fanaticism of 
its present native inhabitants. 

To what particular deities, the idolatrous homage of any 
Guatemalan nation was especially directed, we have but the 
most scanty information, and of their appellations, among 
all my books I have been only able to ascertain one name, 
and that without the least inform;)tion of nature or sex. 
This knowledge is contained in the following words of Juar- 
ros concerning the people of the town of Uspantin; (//w^. 
Guat. 471,) who he says, tore nut the hearts of their pri- 
soners of war, *'vvhich were presented as an offering to the 
idol Esbalanqueen.'' 

Professor Raffinesque of Philadelphia, however has commu- 
nicated to me the following catalogue of the deities worship- 
ped by the people of Yucatan. This list has been taken from 
Ayeta's Hist, of Yucatan, a single copy of which is to be found 
in the United States, in the University Library of Cam- 
bridge near Boston. 

Stunahku, god of gods; who was not represented by any 
image. His first son was Hun Itzamah, or Yaxcohamuc. 

The triple gods, were Izona, god-father; Bacab, son; 
EcHVAH, the god of merchants. 

Zamna, Itzamna, or Ix-Komleox, v^^as the legislator of 
Yucatan. He was the son of the god Kiuchahan, and the 
goddess IxcAZALVOH, who invented weaving. 

YzcHEBELYox, invented painting and writing. 

Chac, a giant god who invented agriculture. 

Ah-chuy-kak, god of war 

MuLTUNTizEC, god of evil. 

Chilam-Cambal, god of strength. 


CiTBOLUNTCJM, god of health and medicine, he had a wife 
named Yzchel. 

PizLiMTEC, god of poetry. 

Ahkinxuitc, god of music. 

XucHiTUN, god of song. 

KuKULKAN, the founder of Mayapan; he was represented 
with a wheel of fire. We have mentioned this personage in 
page 278. 

The Pipils of Honduras, {Herrera, iv. 155,) "worshipped 
the rising sun, and had two idols, one in the shape of a man 
and the other of a woman, to whom they offered all their 
sacrifices." These two divinities, I presume, were the same 
with those worshipped in other parts of Honduras, under 
the very ancient idolatrous appellations of great father and 
great mother. Herrera, {Hist. dmer. iv. 138,) relates, 
"among the many idols they worshipped, there was one 
called the great father, and another the great mother, of 
whom they begged health; (or life?) to other gods, they 
prayed for wealth, relief in distress," &c. 

Idols made of stone, wood, and clay, representing "men, 
women, and serpents, others with faces like devils, or other" 
hideous creatures," were observed by the Spaniards in va- 
rious parts of the kingdom of Guatemala. {Herrera^ ii. 
112, 124.) That they were also in great abundance, we may 
judge from what ensued after Ursua conquered the island of 
Peten in Lake Itza, (Yucatan,) "so great was the number 
of idols found in twenty-one places of worship that were in 
the island, as well as in the private houses, that the general, 
officers, and soldiers," (one hundred and eight in number, 
besides confederate Indians,) "were unremittingly employed 
from nine o'clock in the morning until five in the after- 
noon in destroying them." 

Herrera {Hist. Amer. ii. 112,) says, that at a temple near 
Cape Catoche, (Yucatan) the Spaniards observed, "idols of 
men lying one upon another representing the sin of Sodom." 
This may have been simply a mistaken impression of the 
Spaniards, or a vile aspersion, by which they often procured 
the assent of the priests who accompanied their banditti ex- 
peditions, to destroy and plunder the natives as enemies of 
God and virtue. It would be a very important fact, how- 
ever, should that particular abomination be indeed connected 
with their religious system, for in this kingdom we have al- 
ready remarked they adored the great father and mother; a 
species of worship which with the ancient idolaters of Asia, 
in the estimation of the Rev. Mr. Faber, unconscious of this 
particular instance, has led to the very practice of that un- 
natural vice. 


I believe it is Peter Martyr {Purchas Pilgrims, v. 885,) 
who remarks, that at a town called Campeche (in Yucatan) 
the Spaniards under Grijalva, ''saw a square stage or pulpit 
four cubits high, partly of clammy bitumen and partly of 
small stones, where to the image of a man cut in marble, 
was joined two four footed unknown beasts fastening upon 
him as if they would tear him in pieces. And by the im- 
age stood a serpent all besmeared with blood devouring a 
lion, (the cougouar) it was seven and forty foot long, and as 
big as an ox." 

These figures no doubt had their special or allegorical sig- 
nifications, but of the particulars we are entirely ignorant. 
They appear, however, to be very different from any thing 
I have been able to observe in the history of the Mexican 

In Honduras, the natives held a tradition concerning the 
origin of their religious institutions, which involves some 
very curious particulars, and which perhaps, will throw some 
light upon a feature observed in the history of paganism, 
that has not a little embarrassed the speculations of many 
writers upon idolatrous antiquity. As every thing that tends 
to elucidate the mysteries of paganism is both interesting 
and important, we subjoin the following relation of Herrera, 
(^Hist. Amer. iv. 137.) 

"All that could be learned of the antiquities of this pro- 
vince, (Cerquin) is the tradition delivered by old men, that 
two hundred years before the arrival of the Spaniards, a 
lady came thither whose name was Comizagual, {flying ti- 
ger.) They said, she was white like a Spaniard, skilled in 
art magic, and settled at Cesaloquin, the most fruitful soil in 
that province, where the stones and lion's faces they wor- 
shipped were, and the great stone with three points, on 
each of which are three hideous faces; and some of them 
say, that lady brought it thither through the air, and that by 
virtue thereof she gained battles and extended her domi- 
nions; that she had three sons without being married, though 
others say they were her brothers, and that she never knew 
man; and that being grown old she divided her lands among 
them, with much good advice for the government of their 
subjects, that she ordered her bed to be brought out of the 
house, and there came a great flash of lightning with thun- 
der, and they saw a most beautiful bird flying, and she never 
more appearing, they concluded it to be the lady soaring up to 
heaven, &c. The three brothers then divided the province 
of Cerquin among themselves, and governed it very politi- 
cally, the inhabitants being brave and warlike. The lady 


Comizagual being a magician practised much sorcery, and 
consequently introduced what religions and superstitions she 
thought fit among the people. Among the many idols they 
worshipped, there was one called the great father, and another 
the g,reat mother," &c. 

We perceive in the foregoing tradition, some of those 
features of a triune worship and history, which also observ- 
ed in various other parts of the ancient pagan world, has ex- 
ceedingly perplexed all writers to explain so curious a cir- 
cumstance. From its appaient conformity with a dogma of 
the christian religion, it is not surprising that much attention 
has been paid to the subject, and that various conjectures 
have been hazarded, to explain how the pagan nations of an- 
tiquity became possessed of so mysterious a doctrine. But 
notwithstanding appearances, we do not conceive that the 
ideas of the pagans on this subject, have any connexion with 
a religious faith: but that the}^ are based upon historical tra- 
ditions of events connected with the first ages of the world, 
to which the Honduras tradition seems to allude, as express- 
ly as any other relation we have seen in the mythological 
histories of either continent. 

The appearance of a triad in pagan theology, has been ob- 
served among the Hindoos, Chinese, Persians, Canaanites, 
Syrians, Goths, Celts, &c. For the purpose of a general 
reference, see Faber, Orig. Pag. Idol, iii, 469. We were en- 
tirely embarrassed to explain the circumstance, until the 
Rev. Mr. Faber's profound and elaborate work on the Ori- 
gin of Pagan Idolatry, came into our hands. We appre- 
hend, that he has shewn with the greatest plausibility, if not 
with absolute truth, that the pagan triads originated in the 
history of Adam and his three sons, but more especially in 
that of Noah and his three sons. As we cannot lay before 
our readers Mr. Faber's arguments upon this point, which 
are scattered through the various chapters of his great work, 
we shall alone extract his general views or conclusions aris- 
ing out of the examination of the subject. {Faber, Orig. 
Fag. Idol. i. 16, 17.) 

"Adam and Noah were each the father of three sons; and 
to the persons of the latter of these triads, by whose descen- 
dants the world was repeopled, the whole habitable earth 
was assigned in a three fold division. This truth, though it 
sometimes appears in its naked and undisguised form, was 
usually wrapped up by the hierophants in the cloak of the 
most profound mystery. Hence instead of plainly saying, 
that the mortal who had flourished in the golden age, and 
who was venerated as the universal demon father both of 


gods and men, was the parent of three sons, they were wont 
to declare, that the great father had wonderfully triplicated 

' 'Pursuing this vein of mysticism, they industriously con- 
trived to obscure the triple division of the habitable globe 
among the sons of Noah, just as much as the characters of 
the three sons themselves. A very ancient notion univer- 
sally prevailed, that some such triple division had once 
taken place; and the hierophants when they had elevated 
Noah and his three sons to the rank of deity, proceeded to 
ring a variety of corresponding changes upon thai cele- 
brated threefold distribution. Noah was esteemed the uni- 
versal sovereign of the world; but, when he branched out 
into three kings, (i. e. triplicating himself into his three 
sons) that world was to be divided into three kingdoms, or 
(as they were sometimes styled) three worlds. To one of 
these kiiigs was assigned the empire of heaven; to another, 
the empire of the earth including the nether regions of Tar- 
tarus; to a third, the empire of the ocean, &c. 

"So again; when Noah became a god, the attributes of 
deity v/ere inevitably ascribed to him, otherwise, he would 
plainly have become incapable of supporting his new charac- 
ter: yet even in the ascription of such attributes, the geniiine 
outlines of his history were never suffered to be whoil}- for- 
gotten. He had witnessed the destruction of one world, the 
new creation of another, (rather the regeneration?) and the 
oath of God, that he would surely preserve mankind from 
the repetition of such a calamity as the deluge. Hence, 
when lie was worshipped as a hero-god, he was revered in 
the triple character of the destroyer, the creator, and the 
preserver, &c. And when he was triplicated into three cog- 
nate divinities, were produced three gods, different, yet 
fundamentally the same, one mild though awful as the 
creator; another gentle and benificent as the preserver; a 
third, sanguinary, ferocious, and implacable, as the de- 

In vol. iii. 474, where this subject is again discussed, the 
reverend author observes, "that the origin of the pagan 
triads was such as I have supposed it to be, is yet further 
evident from the circumstance of their being composed of 
goddesses, as well as gods. As the great father multiplied 
himself into three sons, so the great mother, in a similar 
manner multiplied herself into three daughters," &c. 

We cannot but regret that the nature and limits of our 
work prevent a more extended view of this curious and in- 
teresting subject, as analysed by Mr. Faber. We apprehend, 


however, enough has been extracted, to shew how plausible 
are his views, and how happily they accord with one of the 
triune features of the Guatemalan tradition, which has refer- 
red to the triple partition of the province of Cerquin, among 
the three brothers or sons, what properly belongs to the an- 
cient history of the post diluvian world. 

The people of Nicaragua and Veragua, appear to have 
had some other general ideas of the early history of the 
world; for we find in Herrera, {Hist. ,jimer. ii. 132. iii. 
284,) that they surprised the Spaniards by speaking of the 
deluge, &c. These matters, however, are so slightly men- 
tioned by them, that we cannot make any further use of the 
facts than the bare quotation. 

Notwithstanding the curious and interesting subjects with 
which this chapter has abounded, we apprehend, there is a 
circumstance yet to mention, that will excite greater surprise 
than any other hitherto related; and that is, that the cross, 
that great symbol of Christianity, was worshipped in Yucatan 
and other parts of America, long prior to the discovery by 

Though this symbol as an object of superstitious reverence, 
was observed by the Spaniards in the kingdom of Mexico 
when that country fell under their dominion, yet we had no 
such particular description of it, as would have justified our 
speaking of it in the extensive manner we intend to do at 
the present time. 

The first account in any detail, concerning the adoration 
of the cross among any aboriginal people of America, is 
found in Herrera, who has given us the following relation. 
{Hist. Amer. ii. 121.) 

At the foot of a temple in the island of Cozumel, Grijalva 
observed "an enclosure of lime and stone, with battlements 
and plastered, and in the midst of it a cross of white lime 
(stone, or marble,) three yards high, which they held to be 
the god of rain, being very confident they never wanted it 
when they devoutly begged it of the same. Crosses after 
the same manner and painted, were found in other parts of 
this island, and many in Yucatan, yet none of laton or tin, 
as Gomara writes, but of stone and wood." 

When these crosses of Yucatan were first discovered to 
be reverenced among the Indians, (A. D. 1518,) they do not 
appear to have had any tradition concerning the origin of 
that superstition; for Gomara says, "it could not be known 
how these Indians came to have so much devotion towards 
the holy cross, there being no footsteps of the gospel having 
been ever preached at Cozumel, or in any other part of the 


Nine years after the voyage of Grijalva, however, the fol- 
lowing legend was communicated to the Spaniards, accord- 
ing to Herrera, ii. 122.* "In the province of the Tutuxius, 
(Yucatan) the capital whereof is the town of Mini, fourteen 
leagues from the place where the city of Merida now stands, 
the Spaniards were informed, that but a few years before 
their arrival, a principal Indian priest whose name was Chi- 
1am Cambal, looked upon among them as a great prophet, 
told them, that within a short time, there would come from 
that part where the sun rises, a white people with beards, 
that would raise up the sign of the cross, which he showed 
them, saying their gods would not be able to withstand, but 
would fly before it, and that those people would subdue the 
country, doing no harm to such as should peaceably submit 
to them, and that they would leave their idols and adore one 
only God, whom those men worshipped, &c. He also 
caused a stone cross to be made, and set up in the court of 
the temple, that it might be seen, saying it was the true tree 
of the world, and abundance of people went to see it as a 
novelty, and from that time paid a veneration to it," &c. 

Though I apprehend, this whole tradition to be an inven- 
tion of the Spaniards, or a perversion of some ancient reci- 
tal of the people of Yucatan; yet I have thought proper to 
make the extract, that the reader might be able as far as I 
possess materials, to come to a just knowledge of the singular 
fact under consideration. 

I presume, that no one will suppose Chilam Cambal to have 
been sufficiently inspired, to have foreseen or foretold the 
events above related of him; though it may with some plau- 
sibility be conjectured, that he either directly or indirectly, 
had acquired some such general ideas from European catho- 
lics, that may have been wrecked on the coasts of Yucatan, 
previous to the discovery of America by Columbus. 

I think, however, that as far as Chilam Cambal may be con- 
cerned in the history of the crosses of America, that the 
tradition related by Herrera is entirely unsatisfactory; for 
according to him {Hist. Jimer. iv. 165, 7, 8,) he lived but 
about twenty years before the Spaniards arrived in Yucatan; 
which is altogether insufficient to explain the origin of the 
worship of the cross, not only in divers places of Yucatan, 
but also in the kingdom of Mexico, and in Peru, where 
Garcilazo de la Vega informs us one was kept in the sanctu- 

'* Nevertheless, this tradition was either so little known, or esteemed so 
apocryphal, that Gomara who published his work A. D. 1553, or twenty-six 
years after the time that Herrera quotes, was either ignorant of it or rejected 
it as improbable. Herrera expresses some surprise at this omission. 


ary of the temple at Cuzco. [Roy. Comment, 30.) It is 
therefore seemingly incredible, that the influence of any few 
individuals could have extended to such a distance in the 
short space of twenty years. 

The Abbe Clavigero [Hist, of Mexico, ii. 14, note) makes 
the following enumeration of the places at which crosses 
were found in America, which undoubtedly is short of the 
real number.* "The crosses the most celebratetl, are those 
of Yucatan, of Mizteca, Queretaro, Tepique, and Tianquiz- 
tepec. Those of Yucatan are mentioned by Father Cogol- 
ludo a Franciscan, in his History, book ii. chap. 12. The 
cross of Mizteca, is taken notice of by Boturini in his work, 
and in the chronicle of Father Burgoa, a Dominican. 
There is an account of the crosses of Queretaro, written by 
a Franciscan of the college of Propaganda in that city; and 
of that of Tepique, by the learned Jesuit Sigismund Tarabal, 
whose manuscripts are preserved in the Jesuit college of 
Guadalajora. That of Tianquiztepec, was discovered by 
Boturini, and is mentioned in his work," &c. 

As the above authors cited by Clavigero, are entirely be- 
yond my reach, I am unable to state whether they report 
any tradition concerning these crosses analogous to that of the 
Yucatanese as related by Herrera. The only use 1 can make 
of this etiumeration, which it will be seen is of some indi- 
rect importance, is to shew the relative situation of the places 
mentioned, which we will attempt to ascertain in round 
numbers, fron- Pinkerton's map. {Middle Part of Spanish 
N. t/?. Dominions.) 

From the city of Merida, (in Yucatan) the country of 
Chilam Cambal, to Queretaro, the distance is most probably 
above a thousand miles; but measured by straight lines, it is 
about nine hundred miles. Queretaro is in lat. 20° 45' N., 
Ion. 100° 10' W., and about one hundred miles north from 
the city of Mexico. 

Mizteca, lays in a S. E direction from Mexico, about one 
hundred and seventy miles distant. 

Tepique, bj' which I suppose Tepeaca is meant, is about 
one hundred miles distant from the city of Mexico, in a di- 
rection a little south of east. 

* There is at least a relievo cross at the ruins near Palenque; for in the 
largest and most interesting plate to Del Rio's Memoir, one is represented 
highly decorated in the Indian style, and on each side of it stand two well 
drawn figures of men, one of whom holds towards the cross a living infant. 
The hieroglyphic characters represented in our 301 page, are behind this 
last personage; presumably a priest 

There is nothing in the leasi degree of European style or character in the 
composition of this singular group. 


I have not been able to locate Tianqueztepec exactly; but 
think, that probably by this Indian name, Teguantepec (N. 
lat. 16° 20' and W. long. 95°) is meant, as spelt in our maps. 
If this should be the place mentioned by Clavigero, it is 
about five hundred miles distant from Merida, and three 
hundred and fifty from Mexico, lying as it were in a man- 
ner between these two points. 

I apprehend, therefore, from the great distances between 
the respective places mentioned by Clavigero, that the ado- 
ration of the cross was a superstition very widely extended 
throughout Mexico and Guatemala, at a period long anterior 
to the arrival of the Spaniards in America under the com- 
mand of Columbus. For it is not only improbable, that 
such an object would be suddenly received and worshipped 
by so many different pagan nations almost constantly at war 
with one another, but it is also unparalleled in the history of 
the missions of the Roman Catholics in any part of the 
world; and I cannot believe, that they were in any manner 
remiss in urging the reception of such an object of venera- 
tion and certainly with much greater probabilities of suc- 
cess, than can be acceded to any persons who we may sup- 
pose had been wrecked on the American coast. 

But by thus carrying the fact of the worship of the cross 
among the people of Mexico and Guatemala, back into the 
remote and obscure ages of their history, where every sub- 
ject is overwhelmed apparently with an impenetrable dark- 
ness; is it the less evident, that the superstition was primari- 
ly of European origin? For a thousand years previous to the 
voyage of Columbus, the cross had been an object of religious 
veneration throughoul Christendom; and during that time, 
numerous instances may have occurred of vessels navigated 
by Europeans, having been driven by the fury of tem- 
pests across the Atlantic ocean to the shores of America. I 
at once avow, that I should explain the origin of the Guate- 
malan crosses by such an hypothesis, was I not aware that 
the same mysterious symbol, was also an object of religious 
veneration among some of the most renowned nations of an- 
tiquity, long anterior to the incarnation of our Redeemer. As 
I have not been able to find any tradition of European agen- 
cy in establishing the worship of the cross in America, 
and as it is an undoubted fact, that it was venerated by the an- 
cient pagans of Asia and Africa prior to the advent, I cannot 
but pause and hesitate on the question of its origin in Ame- 
rica; and especially so, when we consider that the Guatema- 
lan nations, or the Toltecas, or whoever inhabited that king- 
dom, were certainly the most civilized and enlightened peo- 


pie of America, and as far as I can perceive, were little if any- 
wise inferior to some of those pagan nations of antiquity,, 
with whom the cross was undoubtedly an object of religious 
or mysterious regard. 

But as I am aware, that an opinion which supposes the 
cross to have been venerated by ancient pagans, irrespective 
of any communication with Christianity, will appear singular 
to many persons, it will be but fair and proper to inquire 
more particularly into the history of the crosses of America^ 
and as far as our means permit, to ascertain whether this su- 
perstition be indeed so much overwhelmed in the obscurity 
of time, or so much embarrassed with circumstances of dif- 
ficult explanation, as to require a solution in the hypothesis 
of an origin independent of Christianity 

Setting aside the prejudice of considering the mere fact of 
the cross being found in America a proof of its christian 
origin, I know of no tradition, that either directly or indi- 
rectly countenances such a belief; and the Spaniards upon 
whom the fact made a great impression, have related nothing 
concerning its history, except the tradition of Chilam Cam- 
bal which we have already mentioned, and shewed to be fu- 
tile at least, if it be not also of Spanish invention. 

The Spanish priests could frame no other theory on this 
subject but to suppose that St. Thomas had in the apostolic 
ages, in some extraordinary manner visited America, and 
there preached the gospel to the natives. This very arbitra- 
ry hypothesis no one can for a moment admit. But the for- 
mation of such an opinion by the Spaniards seems to shew 
almost conclusively, that the aborigines of the country did 
not retain any traditional history on the subject that would 
justify the simple belief, that Catholic Europeans had ever 
possessed influence enough among them to have established 
so important a feature in their superstitious observances. 

Some persons, however, who may have perused the History 
of Guatemala by Juarros, may consider the account that wri- 
ter has given us of the antiquities of Copan, to prove that 
Spaniards or other Europeans, had to a greater or less degree 
exercised their influence in Guatemala before the voyage of 
Columbus, and that in this fact, we have a circumstance ex- 
plaining the origin of the worship of the cross in this king- 

This relation of Juarros, which is very interesting, is ex- 
tremely brief in the description of the particular subjects 
there represented. We shall in the following extract, fur- 
nish the reader with all the information we have been able 
to collect on these singular antiquities. Copan is situated 
near the city of Gracias a Dios, lat. 15° N. long. 88° 10' W. 


Juarros {Hist. Guat. 56,) relates, "Francisco de Fuentes, 
"who wrote the chronicles of this kingdom, assures us that in 
his time, A. D. 1700, the great circus of Copan still remain- 
ed entire. This was a circular space surrounded by stone 
pyramids about six yards high, and very well constructed; 
at the bases of these pyramids, were figures both male and 
female of very excellent sculpture, which then retained the 
colours they had been enamelled with, and what was not 
less remarkable, the whole of them were habited in the 
Castilian costume. In the middle of this area, elevated 
above a flight of steps, was the place of sacrifice. The 
same author reports, that at a short distance from the circus, 
there was a portal constructed of stone, on the columns of 
which were the figures of men likewise represented in Spa- 
nish habits, with hose, ruffs round the neck, sword, cap, and 
short cloak. On entering the gateway, there are two fine 
stone pyramids, moderately large and lofty, from which is 
suspended a hammock that contains two human figures, one 
of each sex clothed in the Indian style. Astonishment is 
forcibly excited on viewing this structure; because, large as 
it is, there is no appearance of the component parts being 
joined together, and although entirely of stone and of an 
enormous weight, it may be put in motion by the slightest 
impulse of the hand. Not far from this hammock, is the 
cave of Tibulca," &c. 

If we could he certain, that the figures above described 
were really dressed in the costume of Spaniards, it would 
tend materially to justify the supposition that the crosses of 
Guatemala might have been derived from an European 
source. But though it would be presumptuous in me to de- 
ny the fact, I cannot but hesitate to receive it implicitly; for 
the Spanish writers on America, have been very hasty, and 
often very inaccurate in making their comparisons. Noth- 
ing of a similar kind is elsewhere related hy Juarros, Del 
Rio, Herrera, or Bernal Dias:* which when we consider how 
puzzled the Spaniards were to explain the history of the 
Guatemalan crosses, induces me to think, that there exists 
some mistake in the description of the figures of men and 
women at Copan, and that Fuentes has assumed for Spa- 
niards, statutes or relievos of Indian personages, who in this 
kingdom certainly wore caps and mantles, though they did 
not use swords. 

But if we admit, that the figures are really those of Spa- 

* It may be well to observe, that none of these writers but Juarros, or his 
author Fuentes, have made any mention of the antiquities at Copan. 


niards, I presume the monuments of Copan shew that they 
were not erected by any independent European influence, 
but that the artists were subordinate to Indian authority; for 
the works in question are in the Indian style and manner, 
and not in that of Europeans, and therefore the fabricators 
were but mechanics or labourers, and could have enjoyed no 
very material influence among the natives. 

I do not consider it altogether fair to urge negative proofs 
against the supposition of European agency in the construc- 
tion of these antiquities, yet we should not altogether ne- 
gl( ct their use, and we therefore observe, there is no account 
of letters being observed among these Indians, nor iron, nor 
any of those arts, which particularly belong to European 
civilization. But then again it may be said, that seamen, 
ignorant of such matters had been wrecked on these shores, 
who were able to teach the worship of the cross,* and cut 
stone statutes or relievos; which would designate either 
their saints, or themselves individually as Europeans among 

Yet the only instance, in which we assuredly know that 
Europeans were wrecked on the coast of Guatemala, oppo- 
ses the idea that they ever received even good treatment 
from the natives. Nor can I conceive, how any individuals 
arriving in circumstances of distress from the perils of the 
sea, hungry, thirsty, naked, badly clad, and just escaped 
with life, should be able afterwards to exercise an influence 
over the natives, in the manner that the pride of Europeans 
has generally supposed. It is true, that when such persons 
arrived in large sliips, with fire arms, and other matters of 
European civilization, they were no doubt at first regarded 
as a superior race of beings. But this was not the case with 
shipwrecked mariners, who wanting these imposing appear- 
ances, would in other respects be inferior to the Indians 
themselves; and unless their ships or vessels had been wreck- 
ed altogether, or at least rendered unseaworthy, I presume 
they would never have remained in these unknown regions, 
cut off from all intercourse with civilized society, t 

* Juarros, does not say there was any representation of the cross at Copan. 

I The history of Aguilar and his companions, who were wrecked on the 
coast of Yucatan in attempting to sail from Darien to St. Domingo, and who 
was delivered from liis captivity by Cortez, is extremely valuable in illus- 
trating our observations. In making this voyage, when near the island of 
Jamaica, the vessel "was cast away on the Alligator shoals, at which time 
twenty men with much difficulty got into the long boat without sails, bread, 
or water, and very bad oars. Seven of their crew soon died, and the others 
landed in a province called Maya, (Yucatan) where they fell into the hands 
of a cruel cacique, who sacrificed Valdivia, (their leader; and four others, 
offering them up to his idols and then eating them, keeping a festival. Agui- 


With the little information we possess of the antiquities of 
Guatemala, all I can admit to be proved by the monuments 
of Copan, supposing they really exhibit European figures, 
is, that some shipwrecked seamen may have been preserved 
and protected by some cacique of Honduras, who employed 
them in carving and ornamenting the circus of Copan, as it is 
called by Fuentes. But beyond this, I do not see that they 
have exercised any influence, and it is requiring too much 
from us to concede that the crosses of Queretaro, nine hun- 
dred miles distant, may have proceeded from the influence 
of a few Europeans at Copan, and where we have no account 
that the cross enters into the composition of the figures ob- 
served there. 

We again observe, that if the figures of men at Copan, 
are really in the Spanish dress, it is, according to all my re- 
search on the subject, but an insulated instance: for nothing 
similar has been described by any Spanish writer, which I 
presume they would have done were such figures to have 
been observed elsewhere. Nor would they have failed when 
speculating on the discovery of crosses in Guatemala, to have 
explained that fact by so palpable a source of origin. The 
judicious Herrera, historiographer to the king of Spain, had 
ci'rtainiy the very best opportunity of reading and examin- 
ing the various Spanish writers on America; and yet he 
mentions no other history of the origin of the cross, but the 
legend of Chilam Cambal, which he considered more satis- 
factory than that of St. Thomas, in elucidating the history 
of that superstition. 

I must also observe, that the belief of Europeans being 

lar and six others, who were shut up in a pen or coop to serve for another 
festival, resolved to lose their lives some other way, and breaking the cage, 
fled over the mountains till they came into the dominions of another lord, 
who was an enemy to the former cacique. This one granted them their 
lives but made slaves of them. Five of Aguilar's companions soon died 
through the hardships they endured; he only remaining with one Gonzalo 
Guerrero, who had married a prime lady of the country by whom he had 
children, he was then commander for a cacique, and having obtained many 
victories over his lord's enemies was much beloved and esteemed." He re- 
fused to leave the country when sent for by Cortez, according to Aguilar's 
supposition, "from shame, because his nose, lips, and ears, were bored, his 
face painted, and his hands wrought, ^tatooed) after the manner of the 
country " 

Proceeding in the account of his own adventures, he said, "he had en- 
dured very much during the first three years, being obliged to carry wood, 
water, and fish for his lord, which he performed with much satisfaction to 
save his life; doing what every Indian commanded him, by which means he 
gained the affections of them all," &c. "He also was employed in their 
wars, and had gained the reputation of being considered a prime man in the 
country," &c. However he took the first opportunity to escape and join his 
countrymen. {Herrera, ii. 173.) 


able by their superior civilization to exercise a great influ- 
ence upon a barbarous people, as far as I can perceive in 
American history, is not a correct one; or if some partial 
instances have occurred, though I am ignorant of any such, 
it will not establish the general fact.* 

From every narrative I can remember to have perused, 
the American Indians when not awed by the appearance of 
superior force, acted upon the old Roman maxim that "a 
stranger was an enemy;" for whenever the Spaniards made 
their appearance on their coasts, they were met with bands 
of armed men who attempted to repulse them; and it was 
not until they had experienced, according to a common 
phrase of Herrera, "the sharpness of the Spanish swords," 
or heard the report of their fire arms, and experienced the 
injuries of the shot, that they looked upon the European in- 
vaders as a superior race; and even after this knowledge they 
did not submit peaceably. Thus for a single instance; Cor- 
tez would never have been able to have conquered Mexico, 
though he had with him nearly two thousand European 
troops.t with artillery, and cavahy, unless he had been also 
assisted by eighty thousand and more Indians, previously 
inimical to the Mexican state. 

In the relations of the different voyages made to the Pa- 
cific ocean, and North West coast of America, we find the va- 
rious islanders and natives constantly attacking the boats 
and ships of the European navigators, under all those im- 
posing appearances they are supposed to possess in the eyes 
of the Indians; as Cook, La Peyrouse, Vancouver, and en- 
suing voyagers, have abundantly experienced. Can we 
then believe, that individuals who were dependent on Indian 
humanity for the very safety of their lives, could have ex- 
erted so great an influence among them as to have establish- 

* Guerrero, the companion of Aguilar, is said to have gained honour and 
reputation among the Indians of Yucatan; but how? Not as an European 
artist, or missionary, but as a brave warrior, who fought like the bravest 
Indian, and by which he acquired the privilege of boring his ears, nose, and 
lips. He therefore became one of them, the converse of making them to 
be like himself Bernal Dias (Conquest of Mexico, 3b,) has recorded the 
speech he made to Aguilar, when solicited by him to join Cortez, which is 
in the following emphatic words. "Brother Aguilar, I am married, I have 
three sons, and am a cacique and captain in the wars; go you in God's name; 
my face is marked, and my ears bored-, what would the Spaniards think of 
me if I went among them? Behold these three beautiful boys; I beseech jou 
give me for them some of these green beads, and say that my brother sent 
them as a present to me from our country." 

t Including the forces of Narvaez. {Clavig. Hist Mex. ii. 395.) Of this 
number many were slain in different battles. But when Cortez undertook 
the siege of Mexico, his force according' to Clavigcro, {Hist Mex. iii. 35.) 
was nine hundred and seventeen Spaniards, and above seventy-seven thou- 
sand Indians. 


ed a new mode of idolatry, when wanting, as shipwrecked 
seamen, every advantage belonging to civilized life, and in 
their destitute condition, inferior to the natives in their 
means of procuring subsistence, clothing, or shelter. Neith- 
er is it an impertinent question to ask, what proportionate 
number of a hundred sailors, for instance, were ever suffici- 
ently devout to act the part of missionaries even when their 
situation may have afforded the opportunity? The history 
of the South sea islands, speaks volumes against the suppo- 
sition, that either morality or devotion ever attended their 

It is also a matter of some importance, to bear in mind 
that the Atlantic coasts of Mexico and Guatemala, are the 
most unlikely parts of all America to which storm driven 
vessels could be carried; for from the peninsula of Florida 
to the mouths of the Orinoco, the West India islands with 
all their keys, rocks, banks, &c. , lay in the form of a bow^ 
so as naturally to intercept any vessel that might be forced 
in this direction from the European coasts. 

Yet as I have previously stated, this superstition of wor- 
shipping the cross observed in America, would still under 
every circumstance of perplexity be referred to an European 
origin, did we not know that this symbol was more or less 
directly honoured by several pagan nations of antiquity 
prior to the advent of our Redeemer, to which remarkable 
fact we must now call the attention of our readers. 

It is a circumstance well known to all investigators of 
Egyptian antiquities, that the cross is constantly represented 
on their monuments. It is on their obelisks, on the walls of 
temples, and in the hands of their deities. The amulets, 
representing beetles and other sacred animals which this 
superstitious people wore on their necks, are also frequently 
impressed with this symbol. 

The Egyptian cross, is technically known by the name of 
Crux ansata, or cross with a ring or handle, being com- 
monly represented in this manner, Q as if the ring on the 
top was for a handle. j^ 

* Peter Martyr, (Hackluyt, W. Indies, 26,) gives us the following account 
of the companions of Columbus; which I presume, to have been the general 
-character of mariners in that age. "That kind of men which followed the 
admiral ^Columbus) in the navigation, were for the most part unruly, re- 
garding nothing but idleness, play, and liberty, (licentiousness) and would 
by no means abstain from injuries; ravishing the women of the islands be- 
fore the faces of their fathers, husbands, and brethren, and by their abomi- 
nable misdemeanours they disquieted the minds of all the inhabitants, inso- 
much, that whensoever they found any of our men unprepared, they slew 
them with such fierceness and gladness, as though thev had offered sacrifice 
to God." 



It would be entirely unnecessary for us to enumerate the 
various monuments where this symbol is to be observed; 
the general fact is sufficiently well known, and so common 
is its appearance among Egyptian antiquities, that Jablonski 
{Panth. Egypt, i. 282,) says, *Hhere was no temple, in 
which the figure of the Crux ansata might not be seen, 
and which is yet constantly to be observed in the ruins of 
Egyptian temples. In the Isiac table, the greater part of 
the gods and goddesses may be seen ornamented with this 
figure. And that the Egyptian priests were also accustomed 
to bear it about them, may be seen in the elegant plates of 
the Roman Museum, edited by La Chausse." 

The ancient Phoenician goddess Astarte, the Ashteroth of 
the Scriptures, is very commonly represented on the Sido- 
nian coins with a long cross in her arms, such as we see the 
Roman catholics use in their processions. I have copied the 
following medals, from the few numismatic plates that have 
fallen under my examination, and which are highly inter- 
esting, not only from the prominence with which the cross 
is represented, but also from the circumstance, that we have 
the dates on the medals, by which we can ascertain their ex- 
act age. 

No. 1. 

No. 2. 

No. 3. 

No. 1, is dated 25th year of the Selucidae, which com- 
mencing 312 years before Christ, shews this coin to have 
been struck B. C. 287 years. In like manner we ascertain 
the date of No. 2, to be" B. C. 282; and No. 3, B. C. 122.* 
No. 1 and 2 are from Pellerin, Med. des Villes et de Peu- 
ples, plate Ixxxii. No. 3, is from Pellerin, Med. des Rois, 
plate xii. 

* It may be a satisfaction to some of my readers to be informed, that the 
dates on these coins are to be read according to the Greek system of nota- 
tion, thus on No. 1 are the letters L.EK. The L signifies i/far (Auxa§«g) 
E is 5, K is 20; i e. year 25. No 2 is read in the same manner, L year, A 
30; i. e. year 30. No. 3, has the word year represented by E, the innitial 
letter of Erog, and the number is q p, the first expressing 90, and the lat- 
ter 100; in other words, year 190. These dates deducted from 312, the era 
of the Selucidae, gives the year before Christ. 



The following medal was struck at Sidon in the reign of 
Aurelius. Astarte is here represented standing in a temple 
and elevating a long cross. See WeWs Sac. Geog. Sidon. 

Astarte is represented on the coins of other cities, in a 
similar manner with the long cross. See Well's Sacred 
Geog. Berytos, No. 9. Bostra, No. 14. Csesarea Libani, 1 
and 2, &c. Other instances may be seen in Calmet, Pelle- 
rin, &c. 

In Hindostan, the figure of the cross was so far venerated 
that temples were sometimes built in that form, as those an- 
cient ones of Benares and Matra. {Maurice, ,/inct. Hind. 
1. 249.) In the island of Java according to Raffles, {Hist. 
Java, 19,) there are also ancient Hindu temples built in the 
form of a cross. 

The Diuidical temple at New Grange, is also constructed 
in this mystic form. {Fuher, Orig. Idol. iii. 267.) 

"It is a fact not less remarkable than well attested," says 
Mr. Maurice, {Indian Jintiq. vi. %^,) "that the Druids in 
their groves, were accustomed to select the most stately and 
beautiful tree as an emblem of the deity they adored; and 
having cut off the side branches, they affixed two of the larg- 
est of them to the highest part of the trunk, in such a manner 
as that those branches extended on each side like the arms of 
a man, and together with the body presented to the specta- 
tor the appearance of a huge cross; and on the bark in vari- 
ous places was actually inscribed the letter 4" On the right 
arm was inscribed Hesus, on the left, Belenus, and on the 
middle of the trunk, Tharanis." 

Maurice (page lOS,) quotes Borlase, and the express autho- 
rities which he adduces for the truth of this fact. 

From Gen Valancey, {Collect. Hiber. v. 109,) it appears^ 

that the symbol of intellectual wisdom among the old Irish, 

was in the form of a cross, or ab that antiquary observes, "in 

the form of the Egyptian Tau," which very letter is the ba- 



sis of the Crux ansata. The cut he has given us of the 
Irish symbol, is a perfect cross in every particular. 

Concerning these ancient pagan crosses, we have some very 
curious and interesting information to communicate. At a very 
early period after the gospel had been preached in Egypt, 
the attention of the christian priests was sensibly excited by 
frequently perceiving that symbol, connected with the vari- 
ous monuments of that idolatrous land. When some Egyp- 
tian priests who understood the hieroglyphic characters were 
converted to Christianity, they made the following commu- 
nication. {Dr. E. D. ClarJe, Travels in Egypt, SfC- iii. 
72, 73.) *'The converted heathens, says Socrates Scholasti- 
cus, explained the symbol, and declared that it signified 
**LiFE to COME." This same fact is also mentioned by Ruf- 
finus, Heliod. ^Ethiop. Sozomen, &c." 

Dr. Young {Recejit Discov. hi Hierog. 156,) has in his 
specimen lOS, given it the more limited signification of Life; 
at which I feel some surprise, considering the preceding in- 
formation was derived directly from Egyptian priests who 
understood the hieroglyphic characters. 

Mr. Champolion {Precis du Syst. Hierog. No. 277,) says 
it signifies Life, or more properly Divine Life, "la vie, 
et plus proprement la vie divine.'''' 

Simple crosses, or those without the ring or handle JL^ pib 
continuall}^ occur among the Egyptian hieroglyphics. | U 
Mr. Champolion in the explanation of a remarkable plate of 
hieroglyphical characters, {Precis, &c. 191,) says, it there 
signifies avenger. In this instance it is applied to the god 
Orus or Horus, the avenger of Osiris slain by Typhon the 
evil principle. See also, No. 348 of the plates of the second 
volume, where it is stated to signify supporter or saviour 
"soutien ou saicveur.'^ 

1 have not been able to procure the least information con- 
cerning the nature or meaning of the long cross borne by As- 
tarte on the Sidonian medals. It is, however, far from being 
unlikely, that the emblematical or mysterious signification of 
the C7'ucc ansata, was attached to it; and very possibly, the 
Egyptian figure is but an abridgement of the one used by 

I apprehend that the ancient Jews or Arabians, entertained 
a most mysterious notion of this symbol, which will go far 
towards establishing the great antiquity of the superstition of 
venerating this object in the eastern continent, for neither Jew 
nor Mahometan can be supposed to have originated such an 
idea since the christian era. The inforination I have upon 
this subject is derived from Shaw, {Travels i/i Barhary and 


the Levant, 405,) who has made the following extract from 
Kircher, Obel: Pamph. p. 440; a work I have never seen. 
^'Figuram crucis, in cujus capite circulus in moclo ansae, ac- 
cepit Mesra (Misraim) a Chamo, et Cham a Noe et Noe ab 
Knoch, Enoch ab Seth, Seth ab Adamo, Adam ab angelo sue 
Raziel. Cham vero ope ejus fecit mirabilia magna et ab eo 
accepit Hermes, et posuit eum inter literas avium; est au- 
tem hie character signum processus motusque spiritus mundi: 
et fuit magicum sigillum et secretum in telesmatis eorum, et 
annulus contra demones et malignas potestates. (Abeneph:)" 

I am unable to state who this person was whose name is 
abridged in the above quotation, (Abeneph:) or whether he was 
a Jew or Arabian, but I presume he was a cabalistic Jew, 
The literati of Europe, to whom Kircher's works and the 
authors to whom he refers are accessible, can easily ascertain; 
my ignorance of all these particulars, prevents my using the 
information contained in the extract but in the most indirect 

If this writer (Abe'neph:) was a christain, his declara- 
tion, unless supported by respectable ancient authorities can- 
not be deemed of any importance. But if he was a Jew or 
a Mahometan, I apprehend, it is of great moment: for I 
cannot conceive that either the one or the other would have 
invented a tradition, which indirectly at least, honours the 
great symbol of the christian faith, and that through the hands 
of some of the most illustrious personages of Jewish history, 
until it is derived from an angelic, or divine source.* 

If therefore Abeneph: be a Jew or Mahometan, I consider 
the tradition he has related, to be one entertained among the 
ancient people of his race prior to the advent, and however it 
may be now involved in an extravagant tradition, it testifies 
that the sign or symbol of the cross, was held by them in the 
remotest times as an object of great and m3'^sterious significa- 

But however we may err concerning the authority of this 
writer, the fact itself is undoubtedly established by the his- 
tory of the Egyptian monuments, and the inspection of the 
Sidonian medals; both of which remount to centuries before 
the advent of our Redeemer. 

We presume, we have now shewn sufficient reason, to jus- 
tify our hesitation concerning the crosses of Yucatan and 

*The Talmudic Rabbis (Piirc/tas Pilg. v. 178,) says, "that when Adam was 
exceedingly dejected with remorse of his sin, God sent the angel Raziel to 
tell him, that there should be one of his progeny which should have the four 
letters of Jehovah in his name, and should expiate original sin." 


Mexico, whether they were of christian origin or whether 
they were not connected with the earliest system of postdi- 
luvian idolatry; with which we have in certain instances un- 
doubtedly shewn, the denii-civilized people of America have 
had a direct and immediate participation. 

But whence was this symbol derived among the pagans of 
antiquity, which signifies, emblematically or metaphorically, 


TALISMAN AGAINST EVIL SPIRITS, &c.? The mind is apparent- 
ly bewildered in a maze of conjectures. In a future page, 
we shall again resume the consideration of this subject, when 
other matters arising out of our general inquiry will enable 
us to investigate the fact with greater advantage than is afford- 
ed at the present time; and during the interval we leave the 
question without prejudice, to the meditation of the reader. 

0)1 the Origin of the Civilization of the People of Guate- 

We have now mentioned every particular concerning the 
history of the Guatemalan nations, according to our materials, 
that seemed either necessary in establishing their national 
character as a demi-civilized people, or as elucidating those 
curious subjects which have been observed to be connected 
with their history and institutions. Every part of our ex- 
amination has tended to shew, that generally speaking, they 
were superior to any other aboriginal people of our conti- 
nent, and this circumstance gives rise to the following que- 
ry: Are we to consider their civilization as having been de- 
rived from the Toltecks? or may there not have been other 
demi-civilized people in this part of America, anterior to, or 
coeval with that celebrated nation, and who independent of 
them communicated a certain light of science and arts to both 
Mexico and Guatemala. 

The traditions of these latter people, as far as we have been 
able to examine them seem to point out an evident connec- 
tion with the history of Mexico; and the times in which they 
are reported to have emigrated to the different provinces of 
Guatemala, accords with the Mexican tradition of the time 
when the Toltecan monarchy in Anahuac was dissolved, and 
their population dispersed among the adjoining nations. 

Their system of astronomy was also used in Guatemala, 
and I presume their form of idolatry also, as appears from 
certain incidental notices given in the writings of Herrera, 
.luarros, &c. 

As respects their languages, we are unable to speak, hav- 
ing no information whereby we can make the comparison. 


In their hieroglyphic system, some of the Guatemalan na- 
tions at least, were much superior to the Mexicans, whom 
we consider to have derived their knowledge from the Tol- 
tecas in that particular. 

In the mechanical arts exercised in the two kingdoms of 
Mexico and Guatemala, we may suppose a great similarity; 
yet I believe there are no architectural monuments of the 
former country, comparable either in number or magnitude, 
with those of the latter; and it is evident, that the further 
south we go from the city of Mexico towards Guatemala, the 
ancient monuments appear to be of superior workmanship; 
such, for instance, are the fort or monument of Xochicalco, the 
palace of Mitla, &c. The people also of the southern pro- 
vinces of Mexico, appear more ingenious and polished than 
those of the proper land of Anahuac, as may be inferred from 
the partial accounts we have received of the people of Oaxa- 
ca,'Mizteca, Tarasca, &c. 

Now, are all these appearances of demi-civilization to be 
explained by the supposition, that when the Toltecan mon- 
archy was dissolved according to the Mexican tradition, that 
the remains of that demi-civilized people, emigrating in an 
easterly direction as far as lake Nicaragua, imparted the 
knowledge of their science and arts, to the various people 
with whom the individuals of their nation may have found 
protection and hospitality? 

I confess myself embarrassed to give a decided opinion; 
for though the Toltecan monarchy was dissolved according 
to Mexican antiquities, A. D. 1051, which would allow five 
hundred years between that event and the conquest of Guate- 
mala by the Spaniards, (A. D. 1524,) still I apprehend that 
small numbers of such emigrants would not be able to induce 
the ruder tribes with whom they m>ay have taken refuge, to 
adopt habits or institutions different from their own. 

Such an hypothesis will also require a much greater popu- 
lation for the Toltecan monarchy than we can readily admit: 
that is, if we suppose them to have been the original stock 
of the Quiches and the Tutuxius of Yucatan, and the nucleus 
of the population of Chiapa and Nicaragua, all of whom have 
traditions that seemingly refer their origin to the kingdom of 

We must also remember, that the Olmecs, and Xicalancas, 
the Miztecas, Zapotecks, &c. of the kingdom of Mexico, are 
considered by many writers to have been settled in that re- 
gion prior to the arrival of the Toltecs, and which people 
were also demi-civilized. 

I am inclined therefore to believe, that in times more re- 


mote than those attributed to the Toltecas, the southern part 
of the now kingdom of Mexico, and the more northern parts 
of Guatemala, were inhabited by several dcmi-civilized peo- 
ple, possibly of different tribes, but who for aught we know, 
may not have been greatly dissimilar to the Toltecks in their 
kind and degree of civilization. 

The Tolteck empire in Anahuac, being but one of the 
demi-civilized nations of Mexico and Guatemala, may have 
been dissolved in the manner we have related in our chapter 
on Mexico, and the remains of their population may have 
been dispersed among the adjoining nations, especially those 
lying to the eastward. But I am disposed to doubt, that 
the Guatemalan traditions, which derive their original from 
that kingdom, were synchronical and dependent upon that 
event. That they came from the kingdom of Mexico imme- 
diately into Guatemala, is I presume, an undoubted fact; but 
in this reference to Mexico, it should be considered only as 
synonymous with saying, they had emigrated from a more 
westerly or northern country: and this may have been done 
long prior to the settlement of the Toltecs in Anahuac. The 
Quiches, it will be remembered, said, they had emigrated 
from that country during the most flourishing times of the 
Toltecas, and that they had previously accompanied them in 
their emigratory march from that unknown northern region 
concerning which we have already spoken in our preceding 

The periods of time about which the emigrations to Guate- 
mala were made, according to the relation of the Spanish his- 
torians, are however certainly in favour of a Toltecan origin; 
but I cannot consider them conclusive, though I have no di- 
rect authority to urge against the statement. Nor would the 
fact have been questioned, did 1 consider that the civiliza- 
tion of the Guatemalans could be fairly derived from the 
Toltecas alone, after the period of the downfall of their em- 
pire, and under those circumstances of calamity with which 
that event is said to have taken place. It appears more na- 
tural to believe, that other nations, prior to, or coeval with 
them, had been established both in Mexico and Guatemala, 
whose demi-civilization, though probably different in certain 
particulars from theirs, was yet, on the whole, not very dis- 
similar. By this opinion, certainly not unplausible, we can 
reconcile every difficulty connected with the history of the 
two kingdoms, which I apprehend cannot be easily done, if 
we consider the Toltecas the only source of the demi-civili- 
zation that prevailed in these parts of America. 

But having made my exceptions to the common opinion. 


I shall leave the subject to the examination of others, who may- 
feel a sufficient interest in the study of Toltecan antiquities 
to make an investigation for which I have neither time, nor 
books, nor opportunity of research. 

With this chapter terminates the Toltecan history, for we 
have not been able distinctly to trace them further eastward 
or southward. Neither the Muyscas of Colombia, nor the 
Peruvians, appear to have had any communication with this 
part of America. Even Comagre,* a cacique on the isthmus 
of Darien, appears to have been more connected with South 
America; for it was from him that the Spaniards first heard 
of the wealth and dominion of the Peruvian Incas, soon des- 
tined to fall under the atrocious invasion of Pizarro. 

It may be, however, that Tolteck civilization extended into 
South America; and, perhaps, the Chancas of ancient Peru, 
{Garc. de la Vega, 115, 177,) and the Panoes of the modern 
kingdom, [Humboldt, Res. i. 174,) proceeded from that 
stock, but this is indeed a bare conjecture. Garcilazo {Roy. 
Comment. 7,) also says, that "Indians from Mexico had 
come in past times, and spread themselves from Panama and 
Darien over those great mountains which run as far as cape 
St. Martha." He seems here to refer to Bias Valera as an 
authority, but it is not clearly expressed. There is seeming- 
ly an etymological confirmation of this statement, in refer- 
ence to the Toltecas, by our perceiving on the maps a dis- 
trict and town named Tolu; situated about half way between 
the gulf of Darien and Carthagena; and there is also a Tola, 

* Comagre and Ada, of whom we have promised some account in a former 
page, were two petty chiefs of small territories on the isthmus of Darien, 
about 120 miles east of Port Bello. At the time they were first discovered 
by the Spaniards, which was before they knew any thing of Mexico, Guate- 
mala, or Peru; their degree of civilization made a considerable impression 
on these invading banditti. We must infer what advances they had made 
from barbarism, by the following account that Herrera {Hist. Amer. ii. 6,) 
has preserved of the palace of Comagre. 

"This palace was one hundred and fifty paces in length, and eighty in 
breadth, founded on very large posts, enclosed by a stone wall with timber 
intermixed at the top, and hollow spaces, so beautifully wrought, that the 
Spaniards were amazed at the sight of it. There were in it several chambers 
and apartments, and one that was like a buttery was full of such provisions 
as the country afforded. There was another large room like a cellar, full of 
earthen vessels containing several sorts of white and red liquors made of In- 
dian wheat, (maize) roots, a kind of palm-tree, and other ingredients; the 
which liquors the Spaniards commended when they drank them. There was 
also a very large chamber kept very private, in which were the bodies of 
many dead men, dried up, hanging by cords made of cotton, clothed, and 
covered with ricli mantles of the same interwoven with gold and some pearls 
and stones, that were valued among them. These bodies were those of their 
parents, ancestors and relations, whom Comagre highly respected; they were 
parched at the fire that tliey might be preserved without corruption." 


on the Pacific side of the continent, in about 1° N. lat. As 
these names have been applied by the Toltecas, or a kindred 
people, to several cities in Mexico and Guatemala, it is a cir- 
cumstance not unworthy of mention, when we again meet 
them elsewhere. 

The Indians in the vicinity of St. Sebastians, east side of 
the gulf of Darien, said, they had originally come from the 
country beyond the great river of Darien, (the Atrato. ) 
Herrera [Hist. Jimer. i. 348,) says, "their women were 
well dressed, and that there were some great merchants 
among them." 



Among the lofty and abrupt mountains of the northern 
parts of the now Republic of Colombia, formerly resided at 
times long anterior to the discovery of America by the 
Spaniards, several demi-civilized people known by the ap- 
pellations of Moscas or Muyscas, Guanes, Calimas, Panchas, 
&c. ; whose government, polity, and religious institutions, 
were subverted and destroyed at an early period of Europo- 
American history. 

How far the influence of their institutions and religion 
had reached, we are now, from an entire defect of materials, 
unable to state; yet it is most probable, they were very widely 
extended, for rumors and indications of their comparative 
civilization, had reached the Spanish settlements both on the 
shores of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans; and induced sev- 
eral military invasions of their country at the very same pe- 
riod of time. 

After the conquest of Peru, an Indian was made prisoner 
by Belalcazar, governor of the province of Quito, who said he 
belonged to a kingdom lying to the N. E., calledCundina- 
marca, {Herrera, v. 15,) which was governed by a powerful 
prince, who had sent him ambassador to Atahualpa the last 
Inca, and in whose dominions he had ever since remained in 
consequence of the civil wars that had just previously agita- 
ted Peru. From this information, no doubt supported by 
other indications, Belalcazar, immediately set on foot a mili- 
tary expedition against the then mountaineers of New Gre- 

At the same time, Gonzales Ximenes de Quesada, with a 
considerable force, landed at the mouth of the river Magda- 
lena, and commenced exploring the country through which 
this river descended. He first reached Bogota, Tunja, and 
other establishments of the Muyscas, and may in an especial 
manner be considered their conqueror. 

From Venezuela, an expedition was also fitted out under 
the command of one Federman, who led by exaggerated re- 
ports of adjacent Indians, marched with a third band of ruf- 
fians into the country of the Muyscas. 

Thus, from three difierent directions were invasions made 
into the mountainous districts of Colombia, and the hapless 


inhabitants, soon found their country ravaged, their temples 
and the tombs of their forefathers violated, and their govern- 
ment, social institutions, and religion, overwhelmed and de- 

These cruel and brutal invaders, not only subverted the 
polity and religious institutions of the country by the massacre 
of the inhabitants, and the imposition of a galling yoke; 
but they further wantonly mutilated and destroyed such 
things as they could not understand; and matters highly cu- 
rious and interesting have perished by their not having even 
a vile scribe with them, to record the progress of their 
marches and daily villanies. 

From this circumstance, we are obliged to speak in general 
terms of the different people of this country, and to infer 
the state of their civilization from some few particulars, es- 
pecially derived from the history of the Muyscas. 

From the relation given by Herrera, {Hist. Jlrtier. v. 66 
to 91,) we are enabled to infer their claim to an imperfect 
civilization perhaps not inferior to that of the Peruvians; 
with whom, however, they appear to have no common fea- 
tures of resemblance; and from the researches of Baron 
Humboldt we derive certain particulars of their astronomy 
and religion of a highly interesting kind, which we shall 
relate in due order. 

We learn from Herrera as above quoted, that when Que- 
sada first ascended the elevated plain of Bogota, the people 
there were clothed with black, white, and coloured mantles 
of cotton cloth, some of the women wearing cotton caps, 
and others net coifs. 

Their houses were built of timber and thatched; those of 
the chiefs, were *'like castles, with several enclosures about 
them like a labyrinth, having large courts, with mouldings, 
and paintings." {Herrera^ v. 87.) 

They cultivated maize, yucca, pignuts, which they called 
yomas, and turnips, called cubias,* which they dress with 
meat. [Herrera^ v. 87.) They also raised quinoa, (chenopo- 
dium) frequently denominated rice by the early Spanish 

Salt, was manufactured by them into large loaves from sa- 
line springs in the mountains, and with which article, a 
great traffic was carried on with adjacent tribes. {Herrera, 
Hist, ^flmer. v. 73.) 

They cured meat with salt, which is the one of the few 
instances of such a practice that I have met with in my in- 

* As the common potato, (solanum) was certainly cultivated by these 
mountaineers, 1 think it not improbable this was the root signifie,d. 


quiries on the nations of this continent. Herrera {Hist. 
*/ v. 77,) says, Quesada found "many sides and large 
jDieces of venison, dried with salt." 

They wrought gold into plates and various ornaments, 
such as collars, rings, bracelets, idols, crowns, animals of 
all kinds; and they cut emeralds and other hard stones, into 
various shapes and figures. 

Golden idols are yet occasionally found on the elevated 
plain of Bogota. Hamilton {Travels in Colombia, i. 199,) 
relates, that sixty small idols of gold, were recently disco- 
vered in ploughing a field. The same writer, vol. ii. 239, 
also mentions the discovery of an ancient Indian ring made 
of platina, which we must suppose, had been beat into shape 
from a piece of that metal found in a virgin state. 

Their military weapons were pikes, made of hard wood 
thirty spans in length; macanas, darts, slings, bows and ar- 
rows. They threw darts by means of slings, and also with 
the estolica, or hand l)oard. {Herrera, v. 86, 3S1.) 

They marched in good order, and manoeuvered well in 
time of battle. {Herrera, v. 81.) 

Their kings, and high priests, were treated by the people 
with the greatest respect and submission, even approaching 
them backwards, &c. {Herrera, v. 88.) 

"In point of morality," says Herrera, "these Indians 
were rational enough, punishing crimes, particularly mur- 
der, theft, &c. There are many gibbets along the roads." 

They were very observant of the precepts of their reli- 
gion, and had temples not only in their towns and villages, 
but numbers of little chapels or oratories on their roads, 
with golden or wooden idols placed in them. They also had 
consecrated woods, and lakes, where they made sacrifices. 

The sun and moon, according to Herrera, {Hist. Amer. v. 
90,) were looked upon as the universal creators: but besides 
these, a multitude of idols were worshipped, to whom also 
temples were dedicated. 

There are some other particulars, that may be gleaned out 
of the history of Herrera concerning these people, which 
would further establish their claim to a certain degree of de- 
mi-civilization, but which we shall not extract, as we have 
more interesting matters to relate of them from the researches 
of Baron Humboldt. He was fortunate enough, to ascertain 
from the inquiries of an intelligent priest of that country, 
some of the leading features of the ancient Muysca theo- 
logy, and their calendar arrangement of time, which we 
shall now lay before our readers in large extracts. 

The following tradition, Humboldt appears to have taken 


from Piedrahita's history of New Grenada, a work compo- 
sed from certain manuscripts of Quesada, whom we have al- 
ready noted as the principal conqueror of the Muyscas, and 
other people inhabiting the mountainous parts of Colombia. 
As I have never been able to procure a copy of this work, 
I must quote it at second hand from Humboldt's Researches, 
i. 74. 

*'In the remotest times before the moon accompanied the 
earth, according to the mythology of the Muysca or Mozca 
Indians, the inhabitants of the plain of Bogota lived like 
barbarians, naked, without any form of laws or religious 
worship. Suddenly appeared among them an old man, who 
came from the plains situate on the east of the Cordillera of 
Chingasa, and who appeared to be of a race unlike that of 
the natives, having a long and bushy beard. He was known 
by three distinct appellations, Bochica, Nemquetheba, and 
Zuhe. This old man, like Manco Capac instructed men 
how to clothe themselves, build huts, till the ground, and 
form themselves into communities. He brought with him 
a woman, to whom tradition also gives three names, Chia, 
Yubecaygua^'a, and Huythaca. This woman, extremely 
beautiful and no less malignant, thwarted every enterprize 
of her husband for the happiness of mankind. By her skill 
in magic, she swelled the river of Funzha, and inundated 
the valley of Bogota. The greater part of the inhabitants 
perished in this deluge; a few only found refuge on the 
summits of the neighbouring mountains. The old man, in 
anger, drove the beautiful Huythaca far from the earth, and 
she became the moon, which began from that epoch, to en- 
lighten our planet during the night. Bochica, moved with 
compassion for those who were dispersed over the mountain?., 
broke with his powerful arm the rocks that enclosed the 
valley on the side of Canoas and Tequendama. By this out- 
let he drained the waters of the Lake of Bogota. He built 
towns, introduced the worship of the sun, named two chiefs, 
between whom he divided the civil and ecclesiastical au- 
thority, and then withdrew himself under the name of Ida- 
canzas, into the holy valley of Iraca, near Tunja; where he 
lived in the exercise of the most austere penitence, for the 
space of two thousand years." 

"The same traditions also relate {Humboldt, Res. ii. 108,) 
that Bochica, who had established himself high priest of So- 
gamozo or Iraca, seeing the chiefs of the different Indian 
tribes disputing for the supreme authority, advised them to 
choose for zaque or sovereign, one among them named Hun- 
cahua, revered on account of his wisdom and justice. The 


advice of the high priest was universally adopted, and Hun- 
cahua, who reigned two hundred and fifty years, subdued 
the whole of the country that extends from ihe Savannahs of 
San Juan de los Llanos, to the mountains of Opon. Bochi- 
ca, devoting himself to a life of severe penance, lived a 
hundred Muysca cycles, or two thousand years. He then dis- 
appeared mysteriously at Iraca, to the east of Tunja. This 
town, which was then the most populous in the country, 
was founded by Huncahua, the first of the dynasty of the 
Zaques of Cundinamurca, and took the name of Hunca, 
from its founder, which the Spaniards afterward changed to 
that of Tunca or Tunja. 

"The form of government given by Bochica to the inha- 
bitants of Bogota, is remarkable from its analogy with those 
of Japan and Thibet. At a period probably anterior to 
Manco Capac, Bochica constituted the four chiefs of tribes, 
Gameza, Busbanca, Pesca, and Toca, electors, and ordered 
that after his death, these electors and their descendants should 
have the right of choosing the high priest of Iraca. These 
pontifs or lamas, the successors of Bochica, were considered 
as heirs of his virtue and sanctity, and the people thronged 
in crowds to offer presents to the high priests of Iraca, vi- 
siting those places which were consecrated by the miracles 
of Bochica, and amidst the horrors of the most sanguinary 
warfare, the pilgrims enjoyed the protection' of those princes 
through whose territories they passed to visit the sanctuary, 
(chunsua) and prostrate themselves at the feet of the lama 
who presided there. The temporal chief called Zaque of 
Tunja, to whom the Zippa or princes of Bogota paid an 
annual tribute, and the pontif of Iraca, were consequently 
two distinct potentates, as the emperor and dairi are in 

Baron Humboldt, makes the following observation upon 
the history of Bochica, in which we cannot concur though 
we deem it proper to extract his words. "This Indian fable, 
which attributes the cataract of Tequendama to the founder 
of the empire of the Zaque, contains a number of peculiari- 
ties, which we find scattered in the religious traditions of 
several nations of the old continent. The good and evil 
principle, here seem to be personified in the old man Bochi- 
ca, and his wife Huythaca. The remote period when the 
moon did not exist, reminds us of the boast of the Arcadians 
on the antiquity of their origin. The planet of the night is 
represented as a malignant being, augmenting the humidity 
of the earth, while Bochica, child of the sun, dries the soil, 
promotes agriculture, and becomes the benefactor of the 


Muyscas, as the first Inca was that of the Peruvians.*' 
{Humboldt, Res. i. 75.) 

Far from seeing such refined allegories as those alluded to 
by Baron Humboldt in the jireceding extract, I think, we 
may recognize a confused account of those events that belong 
to the common history of all nations, and which are related 
by the greater part of them with more or less accuracy. In 
the Muysca tradition, we find a ivoman, represented as hav- 
ing been the cause of preventing the "happiness of man- 
kind;" and consecutively, producing a deluge, in which the 
human race with the exception of a few individuals, are sup- 
posed to have perished. Bochica, delivers this small rem- 
nant from impending destruction, rcmodifies human society, 
instructs them in the various arts of social life, imparts to 
them a religious system and political form of government, 
and having accomplished this work, he mysteriously disap- 

Here, then, we have one of those almost universal tradi- 
tions of the early history of man, which alone declared ex- 
plicitly in the Bible, is yet, in a corrupted manner preserved 
among most of the nations of the earth. The particulars 
related by the Muyscas are few, yet they are certainly the 
same with those events related of Saturn, Xisthurus, Quet- 
zalcoatl, and various other hero divinities, who all act a 
similar part with Bochica, in remodifying human society 
escaped from a deluge; and like him, the two last also dis- 
appear suddenly, after the accomplishment of benevolent 

Huythaca, was not a symbol of the evil principle among 
the Muyscas, as will be seen in an extract we shall hereafter 
introduce from Baron Humboldt. This evil being was 
known to them as the demon Fomagata, who was figured 
with one eye, four ears, and a long tail. 

We shall also find that Bochica had three heads, like the 
Trimurti of the Hindoos, being a triplicated deity, who 
nevertheless formed but one divinity. This feature, it will 
be found, characterizes in an especial manner the patriarch 
Noah, according to the mythological fictions of many ancient 
nations of Asia, who represent him triplicating himself in 
his three sons. This fact has been very ingeniously sub- 
stantiated by Faber in his Origin of Pagan Idolatry: but as 
we have already introduced his observations on this subject, 
in our account of the Guatemalan nations, the reader will 
please refer back to page 320. 

Bochica, was not only considered the lawgiver and founder 
of the religious system of the Muyscas, but to him was at- 


tributed the invention of that peculiar calendar arrangement 
of time, of which we are now about to speak. 

This system, which appears to have been unnoticed among 
the Spanish writers of South America for a long series of 
years, has been fortunately recovered some few years back, 
by Mr. Duquesne,* an ecclesiastic of Santa Fe de Bogota, 
whose memoir upon this subject, was Baron 
Humboldt while at that capital in A. D. 1801, and who has 
given us a detailed view of it in his Researches, ii. 104. As 
we have no other knowledge concerning this calendar, than 
what we have derived from the writings of that learned tra- 
veller, we shall introduce his account and observations upon 
it, in the present chapter, simply throwing them into a form 
more analogous to our plan, and omitting such parts as mani- 
festly have no connexion with the subject under considera- 

The least division of time among the Muyscas, was a pe- 
riod of three days, on the first day of which, a great market 
was held at Turmeque. 

Ten of these periods constituted a lunation, or period 
called suna, which means high road, paved road, or dyke, 
because a sacrifice was celebrated every month at the timeol 
full moon in a public place, to which in every village the 
high road [suna) led, from the house of the chief of the 

Twenty sunas, composed the zocam, or period used by 
these people in their ordinary civil concerns. 

The zocam, or period of the priests, contained thirty- 
seven sunas, and twenty periods of the priests, formed a 
Muysca cycle. 

Besides these two periods, they used a rural year of twelve 
or thirteen sunas, which was reckoned from one season of 
rains to another. 

In order to distinguish the days, sunas, and zocams, the 
Muyscas made use of a periodical series, the ten terms of 
which were numbers. These numbers in the Chibcha tongue, 
which is the name of the Muysca language, are Ala one, 

* Mr. Duquesne, whoAvas a native of the kingdom of New Grenada, "was 
long the vicar of an Indian village situate on the plain of the ancient Cun- 
dinamurca. His office having enabled him to gain the confidence of the 
natives, who are descendants of the Muyscas, he has endeavoured' to collect 
all that tradition has preserved during three centuries, concerning the state 
of those regions before the arrival of the Spaniards in the New Continent. 
He succeeded in procuring one of those sculptured stones, by which the 
Muyscas i-egulated the division of time, and he acquired the knowledge of 
the simple hieroglyphics which denote both numbers and the lunar days," 
&c. {Humboldt, Res. ii. 105.) 


Bosa two, Mica three, Mityhica four, Hisca five, Ta six, 
Cuhupqua seven, Suhuza eight, ./?c« nine, Ubchihica ten. 

Mr. Duquesne, the Spanish priest from whom Humboldt 
derived all his information upon the Muysca calendar, as- 
serts that all the Chibcha words for numbers, as far as we 
have quoted them, are all significant; depending on roots 
which relate either to phases of the moon in its increase or 
wane, or to objects of agriculture and worship. The curious 
reader will find them explained in Humboldt's Res. ii. 119. 

It is a very singular fact, however, that these numbers 
were expressed by characters that are clearly cyphers, as 
may be seen on the engraving of the calendar stones of the 
Muyscas, represented in Humboldt's Researches, ii. 104, to 
which we must refer the reader, from our inability to risk 
the expense of having them engraved for this work. We 
may observe, however, that they bear no analogy to the 
Hindu or Arabic numeral charactei's. * 

We shall now proceed to explain, as far as we are able, the 
manner in which the Muyscas applied their ten numeral cy- 
phers, to the different parts of their calendar. 

We have already observed, that the smallest period of the 
Muyscas was th^^ee days, and that ten such periods, consti- 
tuted their suna. 

"The suna, did not begin at the new moon, as among the 
greater part of the nations of the old world, but on the day 
after the full moon. The words ata, bosa, mica, &c. and 
their graphic signs, arranged in three periodical series, were 
made use of to denote the thirty days of a lunation, so that 
?nica, like the qua7'iidi of the French republican calendar, 
was the 4th, 14th, and 24th day of the suna. The same 
custom was observed among the Greeks, to distinguish 
whether the number belonged to the month beginning, 
middle of the month, or the month ending. As the small 
festivals or market days returned every three days, each 
during the course of a Muysca month was governed by a 
different sign; for the two periodical series of three and ten, 
have no common divisor, and can coincide only after three 
times ten days, as may be seen in the following table, in 
which the market days are distinguished by italic letters." 
Humboldt Res. ii. 124. 

* Baron Humboldt {Res. ii. 142,) conjectures, that the ten hieroglyphics 
Ata, Bosa, Mica, &c. originally marked lil^e the signs of the Mexican days, 
the division of a zodiac into ten parts, and that the numerical words ata, 
hosa, &.C., were substituted for the names of signs only to indicate the 
first sign of the zodiac, the second sign, the third sign, &c. and that this 
substitution lias insensibly given rise to the extraordinary idea, that the 
numbers themselves were significant. 


3 1.9 

First Series. 

Second Series. < 


Representing the days of the Sunn, divided into ten small 
periods of three days. (Humbjldl, Res. ii. 126.) 







Cuhupqua — last quarter of the moon. 








Hisca — conjunction. 








Mica — first quarter. 

^ Ubchihica — full moon. 

*'The Sunas, had no peculiar denomination as we find 
among the Egyptians, Persians, Hindoos and Mexicans, they 
were distinguished only by their number." 

Twenty sunas, formed the ordinary zocam, (or period) by 
which the Muyscas regulated their civil concerns. And 
twenty zocams, (or periods) of the priests, each containing 
thirty-seven sunas constituted the Muysca cycle, which 
seems to indicate the existence of the cycle of sixty years 
according to Baron Humboldt, which he says, {Bes. ii. 128,) 

Third Series. 



is equal to the seven hundred and forty sunas contained in 
the Muysca cycle.* 

The zocam, or period of the priests, was an astronomical 
cycle containing thirty-seven sunas, by which they regula- 
ted their religious festivals. It is in reality three rural years, 
of which two contain twelve sunas each, and the third thir- 
teen sunas, embracing in all, 1110 days, which exceeds three 
vague years by nearly 15 days. 

"Though the rural year was reckoned to be composed of 
twelve sunas, the priests added, unknown to the people, at 
the end of the third year, a thirteenth month, analogous to 
the ju7i of the Chinese. The table we are about to lay down, 
proves that by the employment of the periodical series, this 
intercalar}'^ suna was governed in the first instance by cuhup- 
qua. It is this sign which is called the deaf moon, because 
it did not count in the fourth series, which without the use 
of a complementary term, should have commenced not by 
.9mAwz«, but by cuhupqua.^'\ This will be better under- 
stood when we observe, that the Muyscas did not reckon in 
their three calendars, rural, civil and religious, as far as 12, 
20, or 37: they employed for the sunas themselves, as well 
as for the days of the suna, only the ten numbers and their 
hieroglyphics. Thus the first month of the second agricul- 
tural year, was governed by the sign mica, (three) the third 
month of the third year by the sign cuhupqua, (seven) and 
the rest in like manner." {Humboldt, Res. ii. 127, 128.) 

* If the Muysca cycle was intended to constitute a period of sixty years, it 
is a very gross attempt; for 740 sunas, amount to 22,200 days; whereas an 
astronomical cycle of 60 years is not quite equal to 21,915 days; and one 
composed of vague years, is equal but to 21,900 days. The Muysca cycle, 
therefore, exceeds the first by 285, and the latter by 300 days. 

It is possible, however, that they may have omitted to intercalate certain 
deaf sunas at particular times, but on this point, we have no information. Or 
it may be, that their cycle is but an attempt to recover a mode of computa- 
tion used by a more civilized age or people, whose correct features had been 

We have every reason to think, that the cycle of 60, or the half of 120 
years, was at least of the earliest postdiluvian use. See our observations on 
the Mexican astronomy, page 217. 

t "This mode of intercalation, which is found in the north of India, and ac- 
cording to which, a lunar embolismic year of three hundred and eighty-three 
days, twenty-one hours, follows two common lunar years of three hundred 
and fifty-four days, eight hours, is that which the Athenians followed before 
Melon. It is the dieteride, in which was intercalated after the month Poside- 
on, a noCsi^Ewv ^SuTSpog," Stc. {Humboldt, Res. ii. 128.) 



CAYS. (Humboldt, Researches, il 130.) 

Rural Years of Twelve 
and Thirteen Sunas. 

I Ma 

Common Year. 

f 1 




II. Mica 

Common Year. . . < 






(^ 12 

III. Hisca. 

Embolismic Year. ■ 

1^ 12 
Deafsuna or moon. 1 3 

Periods of the Priests con- 
tainingThirty-seven Sunas 

I. Ata 

Bosa . . . . 
Mica . . . . 
Muyhica • . 
Hisca . . . . 


Suhuza . . 
Aca .... 


Bosa . . . . 

Mica . . , . 
Muyhica . 
Hisca ... 

Suhuza . . . 




Bosa . . . . 
Mica . . . . 
Muyhica . 

Hisca . . . 

Suhuza . . . 
Aca .... 


Bosa . . . 
Mica ... 
Muyhica . 
Hisca . . . 



IV. Suhuza 

II. Suhuza . . 




Vulgar periods of 
twenty Sunas. 

I. Ata 



n. Ata 


Embolismic suna 

III. Ata 





















"Among the Muyscas, it is to the singular use of numbers, 
the series of which has two terms less than the rural year con- 
tains moons, (sunas) that we must attribute the imperfection 
of a calendar, in which notwithstanding the intercalation of 
the thirty-seventh month, (suna) cuhupqua, the harvest du- 
ring six years, falls every year in a month of a different de- 
nomination. Thus the priests announced every year, by 
what sign the month (suna) of the ears of maize should be 
presided, which corresponds to the Jibib or Nisan of the ca- 
lendar of the Hebrews. As the power of a class of society is 
often founded upon the ignorance of other classes, the priests 
of the Muyscas preferred an uncouth calendar, in which the 
eighth month (October) was sometimes called the third, some- 
times the fifth, and in which the differences of season did not 
coincide with the sunas of the same name. The priests of 
Thibet and of Hindostan know in the same manner how to 
take advantage of this multiplicity of the signs that govern 
the years, months, lunar days, and hours; they announce them 
to the people in order to levy a tax upon their credulity." 

"The object of the intercalation* of the Muyscas, was to 
bring back to the same season the commencement of the ru- 
ral year, and the festivals which were celebrated in the sixth 
month; the name of which was consecutively suna ta, suna 
siihuza, suna ubchihica. Mr. Duquesne thinks that the be- 
ginning of thezocam, was, as among the Peruvians, the Hin- 
doos and the Chinese, the full moon that follows the winter 
solstice, but this tradition is uncertain." 

"In the same manner as among the nations of Tartarian 
race, the cycle of sixty years was divided into five parts; the 
cycle of the Muj'scas of twenty periods of thirty-seven sunas^ 
was divided into four small cycles, each of which contained 
one hundred and eighty-five moons, (sunas) which corres- 
ponded with fifteen Chinese and Thibetan years, and conse- 
quently with the real indictions observed in the time of 
Constantine. In this division by sixty, and by fifteen, the 
calendar of the Muyscas approaches m.uch nearer that of the 
people of eastern Asia than the calendar of the Mexicans, 
who had cycles of four times thirteen, or fifty-two years." 

"The beginning of each indiction of the Muyscas, was 
marked by a sacrifice, the barbarous ceremonies of which, 

*"The Mujsca Indians engraved on stones, the signs which presided over 
the years, moons, and lunar days. These stones reminded the priests in what 
zocam or Miiysca year, such or such a moon (suna) became intercalary." 

Humboldt has given the engraving of the stone procured by Mr. Duquesne 
among the Muyscas: and to his Researches, we must refer the reader inqui- 
sitive on this subject, as it docs not fall within our province to introduce his 
explanations on this curious particular. 


from the little we know, appear all of them to have a con- 
nexion with astrological ideas. The human victim was call- 
ed guesa, wandering or houseless, and quihica, door, because 
his death announced as it were the opening of a new cycle of 
a hundred and eighty-five sunas. The guesa, was a child 
torn from the paternal home. He must necessarily be taken 
from a certain village situate in the plains, called at the pre- 
sent day the Llanos de San Juan, which extended from the 
eastern slope of the Cordilleras, to the banks of the Guaviare. 
It was from this same country of the east, that Bochica, the em- 
blem of the sun, came, when he made his first appearance 
among the Muyscas. The guesa was most carefully educa- 
ted in the temple of the sun at Sogamozo till the age of ten 
years; he was then made to go out to walk in the paths which 
Bochica had trodden at the period when in his instructions 
to the people, he had consecrated those spots by his miracles. 
At the age of fifteen years, when the victim had attained a 
number of sunas equal to that contained in the indiction of 
the Muysca cycle, he was sacrificed in one of those circular 
places in the centre of which was an elevated column."* 

"At the time of the celebration of the sacrifice, which 
marked the opening of a new indiction or a cycle of fifteen 
years, the victim guesa was led in procession along the suna, 
(high road) which gave its name to the lunar month, toward 
the column that appears to have served to measure the solsti- 
tial or equinoxial shadows, and the passages of the sun through 
the zenith. The priests, in masks like the Egyptian priests, 
followed the victim. Some represented Bochica, who is the 
Osiris, or the Mithras of Bogota, and to whom were attribu- 
ted three heads, because like the Trimurti of the Hindoos, 
he contained three persons who formed only one divinity;! 
others bore the emblems of Chia, the wife of Bochica, Isis 
or the moon; others were covered with masks resembling 
frogs, in allusion to ata, the first sign of the year; finally, 
others represented the monster Foniagata, the symbol of 
evil, figured with one eye, four ears and a long tail. This 
Fomagata, whose name in the Chibcha language signifies ^re, 
or melted matter in a state of ebullition, was considered 
as an evil spirit. He travelled through the air between Tun- 
ja and Sogamozo, and transformed men into serpents, lizards 
and tigers. According to other traditions, Fomagata was 
originally a cruel prince, whom, to secure the succession to 
his brother Tusatua, Bochica caused to be treated on the 

* Baron Humboldt thinks it highly probable, that these columns were used 
by the Muyscas to mark the length of the equinoxial and solstitial shadows, 
t Of this ciirious feature we have already taken notice in page 320. 


night of his nuptials, as Uranus had been by Saturn. When 
the procession, which reminds us of the astrological pro- 
cessions of the Chinese, and that of the feasts of Isis, had 
reached the extremity of the suna, (road,) the victim was 
tied to the column we have already mentioned; a cloud of 
arrows covered him, and his heart was torn out to be offered 
to the king sun, Bochica. The blood of the guesa was re- 
ceived into sacred vessels. Tliis barbarous ceremony has 
several striking relations with that celebrated by the Mexi- 
cans at the end of their great cycle of fifty-two years." 

We must now terminate abruptly, our discourse upon the 
Muyscas, for want of further materials. Whatever was in- 
teresting in their history, religion, or institutions, beyond the 
few particulars we have already stated, has been most proba- 
bly long forgotten under the fanaticism of the Spaniards. 
And we can hardly cherish the hope that Mr. Duquesne's 
memoir, should it be ever published, will after the lapse of 
300 years, convey to us more than a very imperfect idea of 
what the Muysca civilization was in times preceding the 
Spanish conquest. Yet we cannot but express some impa- 
tience to peruse a dissertation upon these subjects, which he 
alone, perhaps, is, or was sufficiently instructed to write. 



As early as the year A. D. 1511, Balboa, famous for hav- 
ing first crossed the Isthmus of Darien, was informed by the 
Indians that to the south was a rich and powerful kingdom, 
whose inhabitants navigated the ocean in large vessels, (bal- 
sas,) and transported burthens on land by means of animals 
(lamas) trained to that service. 

It was not, however, until A. D. 1530, that the Spaniards 
led by Francisco Pizarro, actually invaded that populous and 
fertile country since known to us as the kingdom of Peru,* 
which in a short time fell under the dominion of these bold 
and desperate adventurers, and became but a rich province of 
the Spanish monarchy. 

According to Garcilazo de la Vega, who was descended 
from the Peruvian Incas, and who lived before the traditions 
of the country were altogether lost or destroyed by the 
Spanish conquest, the kingdom of Peru extended at the time 
of its discovery by the Europeans, from the river Ancar- 
maya, nearly on the equator, as far south as the river Mauli 
in Chili. On the east its boundaries were the Andes moun- 
tains; and on the west the great Pacific ocean. 

We are not solicitous of accuracy concerning the bounda- 
ries of aboriginal American kingdoms, our undertaking not 
involving geographical limits as much as the moral and social 
history of their population, and we shall therefore content 
ourselves by saying, that the Peruvian empire proper, was 
circumscribed by much smaller boundaries than those given 
by Garcilazo, though it is also true, that the military inva- 
sions or conquests of the Incas had reached the limits al- 
ready mentioned. 

* I do not know whether the Peruvians distinguished their country by any 
general appellation, probably it was called the empire of the Incas; which 
included a number of different tribes and nations, each of which was known 
by its own peculiar name. 

The name Peru, which was given it by the Spaniards, originated in the 
following mistake. When they first sailed along the coast, they surprised an 
Indian fishing in the mouth of a river and by signs and gestures inquired of 
him the name of the country; he misapprehending the question, answered, 
"I am called Beru, and this river is named Belu." Without conceiving it 
probable that neither understood the other, the Spaniards gave the country 
the name of Peru. (Garcilazo, Rnijal Commentaries, 3.) 

To make this mistaken name still more ridiculous, some etymologists have 
considered it the Ophir visited by Solomon's ships from Eziongeber. 


We may also observe, that the chief towns of ancient Peru 
were near the Andes, and the population more condensed in 
these cooler situations, than along the sea coasts. {Htrrera, 
iv. 281.) 

The ancient traditional history of the Peruvians according 
to the writings of Garcilazo, we shall introduce at once to 
our readers, as certain particulars are there related, essen- 
tially connected with their institutions and customs, by 
which we can alone impart correct views of their polity and 
manners. We shall do this, however, in the simplest man- 
ner possible, merely relating what they have said without 
present commentary, but which we shall consider at some 
length in a future page. 

Nothing can be more rude and barbarous than the state of 
society, which is represented to have existed in Peru in the 
first ages of her history. The natives are described as living 
by two's and three's in holes and caves, half naked, and 
feeding upon whatever matters came in their way, even 
eating human flesh. They lived without law, government, 
or religion, or according to Garcilazo's words, "they were 
like so many brute beasts." 

The sun beholding this deplorable condition of the Peru- 
vians, felt so much compassion for them, that he sent a son 
and daughter of his own celestial origin down from heaven, 
to instruct them in religion, government, and the arts of 
civilized life. 

These two illustrious individuals, were Manco Capac the 
first Inca, and his wife Coya Mama, who were placed by the 
sun on an island in Lake Titicaca, with permission to go 
wheresoever they pleased; under the sole restriction that 
when they should stop at any place to eat or sleep, they 
should there strike a little wedge of gold into the ground, 
and that they should at last establish themselves permanently 
in that place, where the wedge should sink deep into the 

It was not long before they reached a spot, where the 
wedge not only sunk into the ground but descended so deep, 
that they could never again recover it; and thus their future 
habitation was indubitably designated. At this place com- 
menced the operations of their benevolent mission; for 
Manco going northwardly, and his wife southwardly, de- 
clared to all the men and women that they happened to meet, 
that their father the sun had sent them as their benefactors, 
to draw them from their rude and savage life to one more 
agreeable to "comfort and reason." 

The savage Peiuvians were struck with the appearance of 


these two persons, who dressed with clothes and adorned 
with jewels, spoke to them with great kindness and affabil- 
ity. They were allured by their promises, and relating 
these things one to another, the fame thereof so increased 
and spread, that great numbers came together willing to fol- 
low Manco to whatsoever place he might be pleased to con- 
duct them. In this manner having assembled the people of 
the country, they then began to erect their habitations. Thus 
was founded the celebrated city of Cuzco, the future metro- 
polis of the Peruvian Incas, from which as a centre emanated 
those laws, institutions, and customs, that finally prevailed 
over the whole kingdom. Manco was constantly employed 
in the object of his mission; for no sooner had he built the 
city of Cuzco, than he began to plant colonies in various 
parts of the adjacent country, drawing the savage population 
together and teaching them all those arts and principles of 
government, by which Peru became afterwards so distin- 

In process of time, Manco died a natural death, was buried 
by his subjects, and a regular succession of his descendants 
governed the Peruvian empire until the time of the Spmish 
conquest under Pizarro. 

We shall now, under proper heads, treat of whatever seems 
peculiar and remarkable in the constitution of the Peruvian 
empire, according to the plan we have followed when dis- 
coursing on other demi-civilized nations of America. 

Of the Polity of the Peruvians. 

The Incas divided their empire into four parts, answering 
to the cardinal points of the compass; the city of Cuzco be- 
ing the centre, or in the language of Peru, the navel of the 

The land itself was divided into three portions, one be- 
longing to the sun, one to the Inca, and the third to the peo- 
ple at large. 

The land allotted to the people was only for their personal 
use, as they could not sell or alienate their respective propor- 
tions; the fee being expressly vested in the Inca. 

Every year, this land was divided among the people ac- 
cording to the number of individuals composing their fami- 
lies; and at which time they received their seed corn from 
the Inca's granaries. 

In cultivating the ground, the whole people were actuated 

as if belonging to otie community. They first attended to 

the lauds of the sun, and those allotted to the support of the 

poor, in which number were included widows, orphans, and 



the families of soldiers absent in war. In the next place, 
every private person worked his own portion, which was 
about as much as required for sowing a fanega and a half 
of maize. The last lands they cultivated were those of the 
Inca, to which they applied themselves with the greatest 
alacrity, being dressed as if for a festival, singing songs, 
and making other demonstrations of joy. At this time, 
which was certainly a religious festival, they were continually 
shouting hai/lli, haylli* which Garcilazo says, means tri- 
umph^ triumph^ as if expressing their dominion over the 
ground and forcing it to produce their subsistence. 

The Peruvians seem to be the only American people that 
made use of an instrument like the plough in cultivating their 
fields. Garcilazo says, it was a piece of wood about four fin- 
gers broad and a yard long, flat before, round behind, and 
pointed at the end. At about a foot from the end, they 
bound two pieces of wood whereon they might put the foot 
and force it into the ground; it was then drawn forcibly 
along by six or seven persons, who appear to have been fas- 
tened by ropes to the instrument, and in this manner it is 
said they turned up clods of earth of large size. 

They manured their grounds with the dung of animals, of 
which human excrement seems to have been preferred. On 
the sea coasts they collected the dung of sea fowls, that was 
deposited by these birds in large quantities on the small 
islands along the shores. They also used the dead fish left 
behind by the tides, &c. 

They likewise carefully irrigated their fields with water 
brought in aqueducts or canals from a great distance. Of 
these we shall speak hereafter. 

The great aridity of the soil in many parts of Peru, es- 
pecially in those where it seldom or never rains, and where 
there was great difficulty in making a canal of irrigation, 
sometimes induced this agricultural people to make excava- 
tions of great extent, that the roots of their vegetables might 
he in as humid a situation as possible. Stevenson [Travels 
South Jlmeriza^ i. 359,) makes a brief mention of one of 
these agricultural monuments at Pisco, about fifty leagues 
south of Lima, and which he terms "an immense labour." 
An intelligent commercial friend who has visited Peru, in- 
forms me, that near Truxillo is an enclosure by walls of 
mud or clay brick, encompassing about five acres of ground, 
in which is one of these sunken gardens; which he conjec- 

* Does this word bear any real analojiy with the hull of the Hindoos? a 
festival which is celebrated in the month of March ; and the last day of which, 
is passed in a manner similar to that in which children and othera amuse 
themselves among us on the first of April. 


tures to have been an acre in extent, the bottom of which is 
about twenty feet below the natural surface of the ground. 

The Spaniards call these excavations hoyas, and I presume 
they are to be met with in various parts of that kingdom. 

The Peruvians cultivated maize, and quinoa, (chenopodi- 
um) a plant whose seed is something like rice. The potato, 
(solanum) sweet potato, (convolvulus) gourds or squashes, 
(cucurbita) and various other roots not known out of the 
CDUiitry. They raised beans, (phaseolus) of two or three dif- 
ferent kinds. Cayenne peppers, (capsicum) bananas,* (mu- 
sa) and various other fruits. The Maguey, (agave) the Cuca, 
a plant whose leaves they constantly chewed. They raised 
a little tobacco; and cotton was cultivated to a considerable 

The revenues of the empire consisted, for the most part, in 
the personal labour of the people. Tliey cultivated the fields 
of the Inca, and stored the produce in the royal granaries; 
two of which were located in every province, one expressly 
for the use of the natives in case of famine, the other to meet 
the exigencies of the Inca, the supply of the army, &c. All 
persons employed in the service of this prince were supplied 
with food from the public storehouses. 

The people were also required to contribute clothing, shoes 
or sandals, weapons, &c. for the use of the army and for the 
poor and decrepid. This was accomplished by each pro- 
vince or district furnishing that article which was most suit- 
able to their circumstances, and the natural productions of 
their respective countries. When finished they were depo- 
sited in the tamhos or storehouses of tiie Inca, until they might 
be wanted. 

The immense treasure possessed by the Inca in gold and 
silver, was not derived from rents or tribute, but from volun- 
tary presentation. These metals had little value among the 
Peruvians except for ornamental purposes, and were chiefly 
applied to the decoration of the temples, palaces of the Inca, 

On the same principle, they presented to the Inca living 
animals of all kinds, who had them taken care of in proper 

Women, soldiers, and all persons under twenty-five, or 
above fifty years of age, were exempted from taxation, as 

* The banana and plantain, have been asserted by some writers to have 
been imported to America by Europeans or Africans. This opinion has been 
set aside by Humboldt and others from a knowledge of the vegetable produc- 
tions of the country. But a more express proof is urged by Stevenson, {Trav. 
S. Jlmer. i. 332,) who says, he has found beds of leaves of both plants in an- 
cient Peruvian tombs. 


were also the priests, nobles, and those of the lineage of the 
Inca. Newly married persons were not required to contri- 
bute any thing to the public treasury for an entire year. 

From the impotent and extremely indigent, it is related, 
that a certain quantity of lice were exacted by the ortJers of 
the Inca. This curious tax was merely a regulation to pro- 
duce personal cleanliness among such persons, and is only 
mentioned as a singular instance of the minutise of their laws, 
and precepts of the government.* 

The people were divided into tens, fifties, hundreds, and 
thousands, each division of which was governed or inspected 
by its proper officer, who managed every thing belonging to 
his charge and made report to the officer immediately supe- 
rior to him in rank. By this means a minute account of the 
whole people was continually brought to the Inca, and in this 
manner he was enabled to issue the necessary orders for sup- 
plying local wants, and drafting of persons for public service. 

These officers were required to be very vigilant in execut- 
ing their duties, which, as they descended into all the minu- 
tiae of life, as exhibited in the behaviour and morals of the 
people, was no trifling task. Garcilazo informs us that even 
when children misbehaved, the officers over tens were re- 
sponsible for their misconduct as well as the parents.! 

No appeal was allowed from the judgment of the officers 
deciding on the cases belonging to their juiisdictions. But 
if it so happened that the officer himself was embarrassed as 
to the equity of the case, it was referred to the officer of 
greatest jurisdiction in the city or district. 

In common cases, the officers or judges were obliged to de- 
cide in five days alter the cause had been laid before them. 
All decisions were monthly reported to superior officers un- 
til they finally were brought to the Inca. i 

That the officers themselves performed their duty in a pro- \ 

per manner was attended to by the Inca, who appointed a su- 
pervisor over them called Tucuy-ricoc, who notified them of 
the matters belonging to thfir appointments, and in cases of 
misbehaviour reported them to the Inca for punishment; at 
least it does not appear that this officer had the power to do 
so in his own name or authority. 

The punishments inflicted by the Peruvian laws were se- 

*The people of Mechoacan, (Mexico) collected a similar tribute for their 
kings when loo poor to contribute a proper revenue. (Htrrera, ii. SO.) 
Ibelieve it was not an unusual tribute exacted among the provinces of 
Mexico in general. 

fThe Japanese, [KcRmpher, I 283,) have a similar police by which superiors 
are made responsible lor the conduct of those committed to their charge. 


vere, and for the most part capital.* The family of the Inca, 
and the nobility, were generally degraded from their rank 
when guilty of any transgression; but in certain cases, as for 
instance murder, they were put to death. 

It is a very curious circumstance in the history of the semi- 
barbarous Peruvians, that they occasionally resorted to pun- 
ishments that were simply degrading from a sense of shame. 
Herrera [Hist. Amer. iv. 3;j7,) specifies several crimes that 
were punished by them when the offender was made "to car- 
ry a stone on his back, which was very disgraceful."! 

From this brief exhibition, it will be perceived, that the 
Incas exercised a despotic svvay over their subjects, govern- 
ing them according to their own views and pleasure, or as 
the exigencies of the times may have required; hence the 
proceedings of the government were necessarily fluctuating, 
and according to the capacity and temper of the Inca were 
either just or unjust, capricious or benevolent. 

The laws or ordinances of the Incas, were proclaimed to 
the people from an appointed place in Cuzco, to which they 
resorted when summoned for this purpose. 

The Incas| were lineal descendants of Manco Capac and 
his sister wife Coya Mama, or as she is otherwise called, 
Mama Oello, or Mama Cora. As they were a divine race, 
it was a matter of consequence to keep their blood pure and 
unmixed, which they endeavoured to accomplish by obliging 
the reigning Inca to marry his eldest sister; an incest oiily 
permitted to him, it being expressly forbidilen to all other 

Herrera says, that during the continuance of the Peruvian 
monarchy, the marriage of the Inca and his sister had been 

* I have not been able to learn in what manner death was inflicted on 
criminals. Garcilazo (ftot/. Comment. 146, incidentally observes, that crim- 
inals were sometimes exposed to the wild beasts of the Inca's menageries; 
but this could be only done very partially, 

t The Peruvians still shew a sensibility concerning certain punishments, 
which distinguishes them remarkably from other American Indians. Don 
Ulloa (Foi/. i. 2sl,) makes the following relation. "The greatest affront 
possible to be offered to an Indian of either sex, is to cut off their hair; what- 
ever corporeal punishment their masters think proper to inflict on them they 
bear with a dutiful tranquillity, but this is a disgrace they never forgive; and 
accordingly it was found necessary for the government to interpose and limit 
this punishment to the most enormous crimes." 

J The word Inca, means lord or king; but more commonly it signifies any 
one of the royal blood: it was, however, applied only to males, the royal fe- 
males being called Pallas. 

To meet the more common sense of this word, according to European im- 
pressions, we have endeavoured to use the term Inca, as applicable alone to 
the reigning prince. Among the Peruvians, he was called f'apac Inca, or il- 
lustrious Inca, to distinguish him from the other members of the royal fam- 
ily. (^Garcilaso, 21.) 


three times interrupted; twice from defect of female issue, 
and once from motives of policy. 

The throne was inherited by the eldest male heir, and if 
he died without children the next eldest brother succeeded. 
Garcilazo 108, says, in default of male heirs, females might 
inherit the throne. Whether he is correct in this statement 
we know not, but it was never rendered necessary, there 
having been according to him, a perfectly regular succession 
of heirs from the marriages of brothers and sisters successive- 
ly, from the time of Manco Capac until the subjection of the 
kingdom by the Spaniards. There is however, some reason 
to doubt this latter statement; and Herrera relates, that there 
had been disputes among them concerning the succession; 
but as these matters belong to civil history, they do not re- 
quire our present investigation. 

The Llautu or diadem of the Inca, was a fillet of woollen 
yarn, about as thick as the finger and dyed of various colours, 
which was wound four or five times round the head, and in which 
occasionally the feathers of a certain species of hawk were 
fixed perpendicularly. Their ears were also bored or cut 
open, and the lobe extended as wide as possible. 

If their subjects chose to wear a fillet on their heads, it 
was required to be of a black colour, and if they dilated their 
ears, they were not allowed to carry it so far as to resemble 
the extraordinary openings in the ears of the Inca's lineage. 

The standard or insignia of the empire, was a rainbow dis- 
played on the banner of the Inca, with a snake on each side. 

The Inca, besides his temporal power, was also at the head 
of the ecclesiastical department; and the priests were all of 
royal blood. 

Certain officers of the Peruvian empire were called Cura- 
cas, lords or governors of provinces, and districts. This spe- 
cies of nobility was hereditary, though not always in the first 
born, as a certain preference was given to individuals of the 
family according to their capacity or talents. But as Garci- 
lazo says the selection was made by the people themselves, 
the dignity became in a manner also elective. 

The Curacas or chiefs of the foreign nations conquered by 
the Incas, were generally continued by him in the exercise 
of their original power. 

The Incas lived during the latter reigns in considerable 
state and splendor, surrounded by every thing that their social 
state enabled them to deem magnificent or august. 

Their palaces appear to have been a collection of separate 
halls or houses, arranged together with some regard to sym- 
metry, if we may take the drawing and description of the In- 


ca's palace . . Cannar, as the general plan followed by them. It 
would be useless to attempt describing this monument with- 
out the plate, and we therefore refer our readers to Hum- 
boldt's Researches, ii. 194. 

These palaces were sufficiently large to accommodate the 
retinue of the Inca, and the whole was surrounded by a wall 
of stone, earth, or sun-dried brick. 

Gardens were attached to the palaces, in which were plant- 
ed fruit trees, flowers, and odoriferous plants of all kinds. 

The walls of the palace, as also the temples of the sun. were 
decorated with plates of gold, silver and ornaments of those 
metals resembling various animals and other objects, which 
were arranged with a view to eflect. 

The Inca sat upon a stool of massy gold about twenty in- 
ches high, which was also placed upon a square plate of gold. 
Pizarro got one of these stools in his plunder of Atabillipa, 
that was worth 25,000 ducats. 

All the vessels used at the Inca's table and in his kitchen, 
were made either of gold or silver. 

In many of their houses the Incas had cisterns made from 
the precious metals, in which they bathed themselves. The 
water was brought to them in pipes made of similar materi- 
als. * * 

When the Inca went abroad, he was carried seated in his 
golden stool, upon a litter borne by men on their shoulders. 

We have no particular account of the furniture of the palace 
other than what has been stated, except that it was well pro- 
vided with bedding, which chiefly consisted of a fabric like 
our blankets made of wool and very soft and fine. 

The Inca, according to Garcilazo, wore a suit of clothing 
twice only, after this use he gave them to his relations or de- 

When the Inca died, the chamber in which he usually slept 
was shut up with all its furniture and decorations, and no one 
was permitted to enter it afterwards, it being then considered 
a sacred place. 

Garcilazo says, that every room in the palace in which he 
had ever slept, even if but for once, was closed in the same 

* Many persons, surprised at the immense quantities of gold and silver used 
by tiie Peruvian Incas, have considered the earlier Spanish historians as guilty 
of gross fictions. Without attempting to convince this unreasonable scepti- 
cism upon matters notorious to numerous Spanish writers on Peru, we will 
only adduce a single fact In a tomb of a Peruvian prince, opened by a Spa- 
niard A D 15T6, massive gold to the amount of one million of dollars was 
there found, as is proved by the book of accounts preserved in the Mayor's 
office at Truxillo, where the receipt of one fifth of that amount is acknow- 
ledged by the Spanish officer, as the king's ^ropoTtiou. (Humboldt, Res. i. 92.) 


manner. But for every apartment thus shut up new ones 
were built for the use of the succeeding prince. 

A numerous body of servants and domestics were always 
in attendance on the Inca, such as sedan carriers, keepers of 
the wardrobe, butlers, cooks, porters, gardeners, sweepers, 
carriers of wood, water, &c. These servants, however, were 
not permanently established about the person of the Inca, for 
the provinces in rotation furnished them, and superseded 
them when they pleased, after a service of a few weeks or 

The consumption of provision about the court, was of 
course, from the number of persons there employed, very 
great; but more especially, because all the branches of the 
Inca's kindred were allowed to draw their living from his 
kitchen. Hence the great allowance of food, clothing, &c. 
which was given from the lands cultivated by the people; a 
circumstance we have mentioned in a preceding page. 

The Inca's queen was his own sister, as we have already 
stated, and her children alone could succeed to the throne. 
But the Incas also had large harems; Huayna Capac is re- 
ported to have left at his decease above two hundred chil- 

Polygamy was forbidden to the people at large according 
to Garcilazo; but the contrary statement is so expressly made 
by Herrera, that we shall adopt his account and the impres- 
sion that they might have as many wives as they could pro- 
cure and maintain. 

Of the Manufactures of the Peruvians. 

From the wool of the lama, vicunia, &c. the Peruvians 
spun and wove garments suited to their necessities or local 

The wool required by the people, was partly derived from 
the domesticated flocks of lamas belonging to the Inca, and 
partly from the wild animals they surrounded in those 
great hunting expeditions which annually took place in one 
of the four quarters or divisions of the empire, and by which 
means the whole kingflom was examined in the course of 
four years. At these hunting matches, all animals furnish- 
ing wool were shorn, and then permitted to escape. Th& 
coarser kind of wool was distributed among the people, and 
the finer qualities reserved for the use of the Inca and his 

In the hotter parts of the country, cotton was supplied by 
the Inca for the clothing of his subjects. 

The materials for making other fabrics and clothes they 


procured by their individual exertions: we have little account 
of them, except, that they made a kind of coarse linen from 
the maguey plant, and from the skins of animals, they pre- 
pared a leather like that of the chamois. 

The fashion of their clothes was prescribed by law, and 
distinctions were established for the different provinces. 
Any departure from the regulations was severely punished 
by the Inca. 

According to Herrera, the habit of the Peruvians was a 
short tunick or chemise, without sleeves or collar, and loosely 
adjusted on the person. Their arms and legs were exposed 
and bare. Over the whole body, when necessary, they 
wore a cloak or mantle a yard and three quarters square. 
This cloak is the poncho of the Spaniards. It has a slit 
made in the middle through which the head is passed, and 
the ends hang down all round the body.* 

On the feet they wore a sole made of flags, rushes, &c. 
tied on like the ancient sandal. 

Besides the Llautos or fillets, which they bound round 
their temples to distinguish their province and country, 
Acosta, page 467, says, "In some places they wore a long 
piece of cloth, which was wrapped several times round the 
head; in other places, it was wrapped once round. In other 
parts they wore little mortars or caps; in others, high and 
round bonnets, &c. with a thousand other differences, "t 

We have been particular in remarking this circumstance 
of the Peruvians using a cover for the head, as it distin- 
guishes them in a remarkable manner from other demi-ci- 
vilized people of America. 

The dress of the women, seems to have differed chiefly 
from that of the men, in the chemise being made longer, and 
the mantle of smaller size, which they wore as a shawl tied 
over the shoulders. 

They wore necklaces of gold or silver, beads of various 
substances, and of different colours. 

The Peruvians used tools of copper hardened by an alloy 
of tin. One of their chisels on being carried to France, 
was analysed and found to be composed of 0.94 copper, .06 
of tin; a composition which is said {Humboldt, Researches, 
i. 260,) to cut wood like steel. 

* The Trabaea of the Romans was of a similar fashion, and is yet, with 
some little alteration, worn by the Roman Catholic priests under the appel- 
lation of Chasuble. The Habha of the Arabs, (MaUe-Brun, Geog. book 20,) 
is also a similar garment, as well as the Tebuta of the Otaheitans. 

t Garcilazo says, "the common people of Canaris sometimes used the 
shell of a gourd or pumpkin to cover their heads, and that "the nobility wore 
a cap of thin woven thread, like a sieve, scarce above three fingers high." 
(Rov- Comment. 308.) 


Their chief tool, however, was a copper hatchet, the han- 
dles of which were made of the same metal, and projected 
a short distance on either side of the instrument. 

They cast gold, silver, and other metals, into various fi- 
gures of men, animals, trees, plants, &c. They also manu- 
factured them into dishes, cups, jars, and other household 

Ulloa {Voyages^ i. 496,) mentions the delicacy of their 
gold castings wi^h some wonder as to the manner they were 
enabled to fabricate them. 

The same author {Mem. Philos. ii. 101,) says, that ba- 
lances made of silver, have been found among Peruvian 
monuments, the dishes of which were in the shape of cones 

In melting the metals, they used blow-pipes made of cop- 
per about a yard long, and when necessary they combined 
five, six, or m.ore of them, as the work required. 

They manufactured from clay various kinds of earthen 
ware into convenient shapes, sometimes ornamented with 
whimsical devices. I have two double cups taken from a 
Peruvian tomb, which when half filled with water and gently 
agitated, produce a whistling noise through the bills of the 
birds' heads that surmount the vessels. 

They made large bricks from clay and stubble, which 
were dried in the sun and then united together with a cement 
of tempered clay. They also used on some occasions, a 
mortar containing lime; and another kind made of asphal- 
tum. {Humboldt, Res. i. 257.) 

In the ancient Peruvian tombs, {giiacas) are still found 
when opened, various articles of their manufacture that had 
been interred with the dead. Ulloa {Voy. i. 494,) describes 
such things with some detail. They are mirrors made of 
the Inca stone, and the Gallinazo stone:* those made from 
the first named material are as highly polished as could be 
done by the best European workmen. 

Idols and ornaments of gold are also found, exceedingly 
well cast, being made hollow and as thin as writing paper, 
without any marks of having been soldered. 

"Yet all we have said," (Ulloa) "is surpassed by the in- 
genuity with which they had wrought emeralds, these gems 
being found cut into various shapes, some spherical, others 
cylindrical, conical, and various other shapes, made with 
perfect accuracy and drilled through with all the delicacy of 

* The substance shewn to me as the Inca stone, is a marca&Ue. I have 
never seen the Gallinazo stone, but believe it to have been obsidian, Irom 
the various incidental observations made upon it by the Spanish writers. 


onr European artists. It is an almost unsurmountable diffi- 
culty to explain how they could work a stone of such hard- 

I presume they also worked crystallized quartz into vari- 
ous ornamental figures, and that the bracelet of the high 
priest, which was used to kindle their consecrated fires, was 
of this substance, cut into the shape of a convex lens. 

In some few instances at least, they made stone statues of 
their gods and Incas. (Hen^era, iv. 298, 314.) 

They squared the stone used in their buildings with the 
greatest care and accuracy. It is doubtful whether they at- 
tained this end by simply rubbing them down to the desired 
shape, or whether they cut them with their copper chisels. 
Condamine {Humboldt, Res. i. 258,) says, "the stones used 
in the construction of the palace of Cannar, are of porphyry 
and so exquisitely cut, that the joints would be impercepti- 
ble but for a slight convexity of the exterior face, which no 
doubt was intended to be ornamental." 

We shall conclude this brief notice of their manufactures, 
with the single additional fact, that they also made salt from 
saline springs near Cuzco. (Garcilazo, 262.) 

The Peruvians, far exceeded any other demi-civilized peo- 
ple of America in their contrivances to save human labour. 
They had two species of animals trained to carry burthens; 
these were the Llama, Guanaco, or Huanacos, and the Paco, 
or Alpaco: according to our present nomenclature, Camelus 
Glama, and Paco. The common name Llama, is a gene- 
ric one among the Peruvians for several similar species of 
animals. {Garcilazo, 329,331.) 

Of the two, the Paco was much smaller and comparative- 
ly little used for the purpose of carriage. 

Along the sea coasts, the Peruvians made use of balsas 
or sailing rafts, for transporting commodities of various 
kinds. These were literally simple rafts made of logs of 
light wood, on which a large mat sail was hoisted. But by 
the ingenious device of lowering flat pieces of timber down 
into the water between the logs composing the raft, they 
were enabled, from the resistance thus made to sail close 
hauled on a wind. The principle is the same with that 
which has fitted "lee boards" to vessels of shallow drafts. 

But notwithstanding these improvements, and the magni- 
ficent roads that passed through the dominions of the Inca, 
the Peruvians were not a commercial people. They were 
restricted by law to particular labours for the common good, 
and therefore individual industry and activity being restrain- 
ed, the prosperity and happiness of the people was injured 


to .1 great degree. It may perhaps be an ill-placed observa- 
tion, but I cannot forbear remarking, that the general happi- 
ness of every people seems to be diminished just in propor- 
tion to the interference of government, in undertaking to 
regulate the industry of their people; which invariably for- 
ces it into directions contrary to what the state of society 
requires, and evidently would take, if left to individual in- 
terest and sagacity. 

Of the Architectural and Public Works of the Peru- 

The palaces of the Incas, and the temples, were chiefly 
built of stones well polished, and joined together, sometimes 
without cement, in other instances with a real mortar of 
lime, sometimes with asphaltum, and not unfrequently they 
were bound together by melted lead, silver, or gold. 

In general, they did not make their buildings of more 
than one story, nor did they join room to room. Each 
house, therefore, consisted of one apartment only; but they 
were assembled so closely together, as to answer all the pur- 
poses of a suite of rooms. 

Most probably, this style of building continued unimprov- 
ed, from the circumstance of the country being often visited 
by dangerous earthquakes, which render loftier habitations 
more dangerous to the in-dwellers. That they knew how to 
construct buildings with several stories, is evident from the 
relation of Garcilazo, who says [Royal Commentaries, 467) 
that at the entrance of the royal palace at Cuzco, was a 
tower four stories in height, and so lofty, that it exceeded 
any spire in Spain, but that of Seville. 

It is also observable, that after the walls were raised to 
the desired height, they erected pillars in the middle of the 
apartment when of large dimensions, to support the roofs; 
for they were ignorant of the art by which an inclined roof 
is constructed according to European carpentry. Neither 
did they use pins or nails to fasten down the beams and raf- 
ters, contenting themselves with tying them fast together 
with ropes of rushes. Over the rafters they laid a covering 
of straw thatch, which extended a yard or more beyond the 

Some of their houses were very spacious, if Garcilazo be 
correct, when he says, that some measured about two hun- 
dred paces in length, and fifty or sixty in breadth. As sev- 
eral such mentioned by him were roofed, he expresses much 
surprize how they found timber sufficiently long for that 


Besides stone walls, they also built them with brick dried 
in the sun. These bricks were made by ramming clay mix- 
ed with straw into large cases or moulds. They were of 
very large size in comparison with those used by ourselves; 
for Garcilazo says, the smallest were about a yard long, one 
sixth of a yard in breadth and thickness. After they were 
made, they were dried in the sun, and kept from the wea- 
ther for two or three years; when they used them, they were 
cemented together with well tempered clay. 

Notwithstanding the assertions of Acosta and Garcilazo, 
the Peruvians certainly did know how to construct arches 
and vaults; for many of their ancient tombs are vaulted, 
(ceintrees) as also the subterranean passages of the fortress 
of Cuzco. {Mem. Philos. Don Ulloa, ii. 457, Notes, Sfc.) 

The temples were built of stone, in a similar manner 
with the palaces of the Incas; but it is impossible to des- 
cribe them from the vague account given by Garcilazo, who 
indeed declares, he was ignorant of the dimensions of the 
one at Cuzco, and therefore makes no estimate. What little 
we are able to say on this subject, will be introduced in our 
observations on the religious system of this people. 

The Inca Huayna Capac, the father of Atahualpa, more 
commonly called Atabilipa, has the reputation of having 
constructed, or perhaps rather of having completed, two im- 
mense roads which extended from Cuzco to Quito, a distance 
of about 1500 miles. One of these roads lay along the 
plains, while the other passed over the mountains. Though 
Europeans have persuaded themselves that these roads were 
merely "slaked paths," Baron Humboldt {Res. i. 241) 
describes the mountain road in the following language. 
"We were surprised to find at this place, (Paramo del As- 
suay) and at heights which greatly surpass the top of the 
Peak of Teneriffe, the magnificent remains of a road con- 
structed by the Incas of Peru. This causev^ay, lined with 
free stone, may be compared to the finest Roman roads I 
have seen in Italy, France or Spain; it is perfectly straight, 
and keeps the same direction for 6 or 8,000 metres, (four or 
five miles.) We observed the continuation of this road near 
Caxamarca, 120 leagues to the south of Assuay, and it is 
believed in the country that it led as far as the city of 

The road along the plains, appears to have been an earth- 
en road, much inferior in point of execution, to the one we 
have described. 

These roads were emphatically royal roads, for none 
travelled them except upon the Inca's business. Other per- 


sons that ventured to use them, unless for very short dis- 
tances, were taken up as vagabonds and punished. {Garci- 
lazo, 145.) 

On various parts of these roads, as well as on other high- 
ways, the Peruvians made bridges for passing rivers and 
chasms. Most commonly they were of the kind called 
hanging bridges, in which a number of strong ropes of 
vines, rushes, &c. were stretched over the place to be cross- 
ed, and being tied together, enabled persons to walk over in 

At other times, a single stout rope was stretched across, to 
which a hammock was slung on loose rings: the passenger 
being placed in it, was drawn over by lines affixed to its 

It appears from Gomara, quoted by Garcilazo, page 570, 
that the Peruvians had also erected a few stone bridges. 

Humboldt {Researches, ii. 75,) says, the ancient Peruvi- 
ans also constructed bridges of wood, supported by piers of 
stone; though they commonly satisfied themselves with those 
made of ropes. 

At convenient distances along these roads, tambos, or 
houses for the accommodation of the Inca and his suite, were 
erected, at which he sojourned when travelling through the 
various provinces of his empire. For a description of one of 
these monuments, see Humboldt's Researches, i. 240, &c. 

These tambos were also, according to Garcilazo, maga- 
zines or storehouses, in which a part of the agricultural pro- 
duce of the country was annually laid up for public uses. 

The Incas had swift runners stationed along the roads, at 
about a quarter of a league distance apart, who carried or- 
ders or intelligence to or from the capital. Each messenger, 
after running his appointed distance, communicated either 
verbally, or by means of the quippos, whatever they were 
required to despatch. 

These couriers ran so quick, that the Inca at Cuzco, was 
accustomed to receive fresh fish from the sea for the use of 
his table, in about two days, though the distance exceeds 
three hundred miles, {^costa, Nat. and Mor. Hist. 46y. 
Herrera, iv. 333.) 

The more arid parts of the Peruvian empire, were sup- 
plied with water for agricultural purposes by means of long 
aqueducts or canals, which Garcilazo, {Royal Comment. 
173,) describes to have been constructed in the following 
manner: Cisterns were built in the mountains to collect the 
water, which was then conducted through channels made of 
hewn stones, about two yards long, and one in height, which 


Were cemented together and rammed down with clay so 
hard and tight, that the water could not pass through the in- 
terstices. These canals wound round the mountains, and 
extended into the plains, and at suitable points, the water 
could be drawn off to irrigate the cultivated lands. 

One of these canals, according to the above writer, was 
120, and another 150 leagues in length. The Spaniards 
have permitted them to fall into ruins, yel traces of them are 
still to be seen. 

Stevenson [Trav. S. Amer. i. 412,) says, that at Huaura, 
(about eighty miles north of Lima) vestiges of the old Pe- 
ruvian canals are still visible, in which the waters of the 
Huaura river were brought the distance of ten leagues. 

Of the Wars of the Peruvians. 

Garcilazo represents the offensive wars of the Incas with 
adjoining nations, to have had no other end than that they 
might be civilized. He says, they first endeavoured to per- 
suade such nations to receive their religion and social system, 
which if rejected, they then attempted to starve them into 
compliance, and as a dernier resort only, gave battle when 
the preceding means did not produce the desired change. 

Though we give no credence to such disinterested motives 
as are here claimed for the military operations of the Incas, 
we must do them the justice to state, that their wars appear 
to have been less ferocious and sanguinary, than those of any 
other half civilized people belonging to either the eastern or 
western continent; which is perhaps the highest praise we 
can give to their social institutions. 

When a nation became subjected to the Inca, they were 
put under the common law of the land, and carefully in- 
structed in their religious faith,* in agriculture, and other 
arts possessed by the Peruvians. They were also required 
to learn the language of the Incas, (Qquichua,) and for these 
purposes persons were sent from Cuzco to teach them. 

The armies of the Peruvians appear to have been made by 
drafting levies en masse^ though on this point I have not 
been able to get any exact information. 

The officers were of various ranks; some commanding ten, 
others fifty, five hundred, or a thousand men. The generals 
or chief officers were appointed by the Inca. 

Their weapons were slings, which they used with great 
effect, {HerrerUj v. 25,) bows and arrows, lances, darts, pole- 

* Garcilazo 149, says, the principal idol of every subdued people was car- 
ried as if a captive to Cuzco, to shew its inferiority to the power of the sun 
and the Inca. 


axes, clubs, macanas, &c. They also used the lazo or noose, 
the bolas, and instruments like the pogamoggon, all of which 
we have described at page 134. 

I have met with no account of their having used shields 
or any other defensive armour; though Garcilazo says they 
manufactured helmets and targets. 

The Peruvians do not appear to have taken any trophy 
from the vanquished. But some of the adjacent nations 
flayed the dead and stuffed their skins with ashes. This was 
done once by an Inca, {Herrera, iv. 307,) but it is a rare in- 

The young men of the Inca's lineage, underwent a certain 
initiation before they were admitted to the privileges of 
manhood. The ceremony chiefly consisted in their fasting 
for several days on the smallest quantity of food necessary 
to support life, in running up steep ascents, combatting with 
each other with blunted weapons, in privation from sleep, 
and in the infliction of voluntary wounds, &c. until the time 
appointed for their probation was fulfilled. If any one was 
unable to bear the rigor of these exercises he was considered 
disgraced. Garcilazo says, that none but the Inca's sons 
were admitted to these trials. 

Those who distinguished themselves during their proba- 
tion, had their ears bored and distended to a large size, and 
various ornaments and insignia were given them. 

It was the persons thus distinguished, whom the Spaniards 
called knights of an order of chivalry. 

The military works of the Peruvians, were chiefly walls 
of rough stone laid together without cement. The fortress 
of Cuzco, which seems to have been the greatest work of 
this kind, is described by Garcilazo, as being constructed of 
three immense walls or ramparts surrounding a hill.* He 
says, it was built rather of rocks than stones; to which fact 
Acosta [Nat. and Mor. Hist. 460,) bears witness; for he 
measured some stones in the wall, that were thirty feet in 
length, eighteen in breadth, and six in thickness. In the 
intervening spaces between these stones, others of smaller 
sizes were fitted, so that the walls were in a manner smooth 
and perpendicular. 

The outer wall, is stated to have been about twelve hun- 
dred feet in compass. Through the walls were gates which 
communicated with the innermost part of the fortress, where, 
according to Garcilazo, were three strong towers, two of 
which were square, and one round. The latter was appro- 

* Hills or mountains fortified by walls of earth or stone, were called Pu- 
curas, and are so common in Quito, according to Ulloa, {Voy. i. 504,) that one 
scarcely meets a hill without them. 


priated to the use of the Inca, the two former were for the 
longing of the garrison. Under the towers were subterra- 
neous passages of great extent communicating with each 
other. Schneider {Ulloa, Mem. Philos. ii. 457,) says, they 
were vaulted, {ceintrees.) 

In the midst of this fortification, was a fountain affording 
a plentiful supply of water, which had been providently 
brought by the Inca in pipes under the ground, from some 
source in the neighbourhood, which these sagacious princes 
kept secret from the people. 

Of the Astronomy and Learning of the Peruvians. 

The Peruvians, according to all the accounts that have 
reached our times, seem to have been very much inferior to 
the Mexicans in the correctness of their astronomical sys- 
tem. I have some doubt, however, whether their calendar 
arrangement has been correctly described by the early Spa- 
nish writers. Even the little they have been pleased to com- 
municate, has been done in so vague and unsatistactory a man- 
ner, that I have not been able to ascertain the names of their 
months, nor their precise number of days. 

Now, as the Peruvians made by means of towers constant 
azimuth observations on the sun's rising and setting, and 
also upon the shadows cast by pillars at the times of the 
equinoxes and solstices, I cannot easily perceive a reason for 
the great inaccuracy of their year as it has been represented 
to us; and I am therefore inclined to think, that only some 
grosser part of their calendar has been preserved. In this 
opinion I am further seemingly strengthened, by not finding 
the Spanish writers to describe any cycle of years to have 
been used by them, which the nature of their observations 
would hardly have permitted them to dispense with. 

We are unable, however, to furnish any evidence to sup- 
port this opinion, and shall therefore with the preceding ex- 
pression of doubtfulness, proceed to describe the Peruvian 
calendar from the best authorities attainable to our means. 

Herrera, [Hist. Jim,er. iv. 348,) says, "their year was di- 
vided into twelve months, distinguished by their several 
names; and particular festivals appointed in each of them. 
The year began in January, till one of the Incas ordered it 
should commence in December, at which time they celebrat- 
ed their greatest festival." 

"Their year, as has been said, consisted of twelve months 
or moons, and they threw in the twelve days over and above 
the moons among the said months; and to keep their reckon- 


ing orderly, they had twelve little pillars or columns placed 
on the hills about Cuzco at such distances, that each of them 
every month shewed where the sun did rise, and where he 
did set, and by them they gave out their festivals, and the 
seasons for sowing, reaping," &c. 

Garcilazo [Royal Comment. 44,) says, that they also 
erected pillars of marble in the area before the temple of the 
sun, and by measuring the shadows that fell on the smooth 
ground, they ascertained the times of ihe equinoxes and 
solstices, when festivals were held in honor of the sun. 

The same writer further remarks, thai as their month and 
a lunation were synonymous, the "weeks they called quarters 
of the moon." I rather consider Garcilazo erroneous in 
this subdivision of the month into fourths; for in another 
paee he relates, that the Inca Pachacutec ordered the mar- 
kets to be held every nine days, which seemingly implies a 
division of the month into thirds. These market days, like 
the nundinse of the ancient Romans, were also in a manner 
their court days for public business 

The Peruvians, unlike the Mexicans, were ignorant of the 
causes of eclipses, for they supposed the planets at such times 
to be sick. 

They particularly distinguished the planet Venus, some of 
the brighter fixed stars, the pleiades, the milky way, &c. to 
all of which they gave certain names, and imagined them 
for the most part to be, or to rej)resent, various animals which 
they were accustomed to meet with in Peru. 

With this meagre account of Peruvian astronomy, we 
have been obliged to content ourselves. It involves no mat- 
ters of curious investigation, being analogous in its features 
to the years of all other nations using the moon as their 
measure of time. But as the Peruvians measured the equi- 
noxial and solstitial shadows thrown by the sun, they were 
enabled to correct their time, which it would seem was done 
by the intercalation of eleven or twelve days in every year. 
I cannot therefore but infer, that either their solar observa- 
tions had been practised but a short time before the Spanish 
conquest, and that they had not multiplied them sufficiently 
to have made a more correct system, or that their more sci- 
entific calendar has perished under their European oppressors. 

The Peruvians were also far behind the Mexicans in their 
system of recording historic events; for they not only were 
ignorant of alphabetical writing, but they made no use of 
hieroglyphics or paintings. 

The quippos by which they attempted to supply these de- 
ficiencies, were cords of various colours, upon which they 


tied different kinds of knots, which but simply reminded 
them of some event, fact, or circumstance, important or in- 
teresting to them, when such and such a knot was tied. The 
system,howeverfar itmay have been carried, was nothing more 
than the plan I have seen adopted by some of my acquain- 
tances, who tie a knot in their handkerchiefs, when they 
propose doing something they are fearful of forgetting.* 

In like manner they used small stones ot various kinds 
and colours, as may be seen in Acosta, {Nat. and Mor. Hist. 
450,) who, however, seems to have considered the device 
much more perfect than it is possible to have been. 

The wampum belts of the North American Indians are 
of the same nature, and it is probable, similar devices have 
prevailed very generally among other nations. Gili {Hum- 
boldt, Pers. Nar. vi. 29,) is said to have observed the quip- 
pos in use among the Indians on the banks of the river Oro- 

The Ardrasians, a nation on the slave coast of Africa, 
{Mod. Univ. Hist. xiii. 363,) "use a small cord tied in 
knots, to each of which they affix certain ideas, and by this 
means convey their sentiments to a distance." 

The islanders of the Indian ocean, {Crawfurd, Ind. 
*^rchip. i. 253,) "keep a certain remembrance of things by 
tying knots on a cord, or by cutting notches on slips of 

Knotted cords like the quippos, were anciently used in 
China for similar purposes. It is stated in the Yih-king 
{Morrison, Chin. Diet. i. 592,) that "in high antiquity 
knotted cords were employed by government, but in subse- 
quent ages the sages exchanged them for written documents 
or books." 

There was a certain class of men among the Peruvians 
called Amautas, translated "philosophers" by Garcilazo, 
"who taught something of poetry, music, philosophy and 
astrology, as far as they were able," to the children of the 
Incas and the nobility. Commoners, were excluded from 
these schools, where it is said the Inca himself sometimes 
delivered an address or lecture. 

I suppose it was this class of men to whom Herrera {Hist. 
Jimer. iv. 331,) alludes, when he says, that when the Incas 
died, there were "discreet men of note whose business it 
was to relate their actions if they deserved it, and they com- 
posed of them very regular songs and ballads to be learnt of 
all persons," &c. 

* Skinner {Present State of Peru, 17,) says, the Peruvian shepherds still 
make use of the quippos to reckon the number, increase, or diminution of 
their flocks. For this purpose it will answer very well. 


Garcllazo {Boyal Comment. 49,) also says, the Jlmautas 
^'invented comedies and tragedies, which on their solemn 
festivals they represented before the Inca and the lords of 
his court. The actors were not men of the common sort, 
but Curacas, or some of the young nobility and officers of 
the army, who each acted his own part. The plot or argu- 
ment of their tragedies, was to represent their military ex- 
ploits and the triumphs, victories, and heroic actions of their 
renowned men. The subject or design of their comedies, 
was to demonstrate the manner of good husbandry in culti- 
vating and manuring their fields, to shew the management 
of domestic affairs, with other familiar matters." 

If Garcilazo has not exaggerated the bragadocio declara- 
tions of the nobility on public occasions, concerning their 
ability and success in war, as was practised among the Flo- 
rida nations, (page 165) his relation is very curious, and is 
the only instance 1 have yet met with, in which theatrical 
exhibitions might appear to arise from incidents of civil life. 
Among all other nations, as far as we are informed, such 
things proceeded from religious scenical representations and 

Neither Garcilazo nor Herrera state whether the Amautas 
were priests, or of the priestly order; but according to the 
analogies afforded by other nations we may presume this was 
the case. 

Of the Social Habits of the Peruvians. 

The Peruvians, seem to have enjoyed little of that plea- 
sant intercourse with each other, which in civilized coun- 
tries is considered the chief gratification of the social com- 
pact. In truth, their society resembled that of monastic in- 
stitutions, in which evfery particular of life is regulated, and 
punishments inflicted when certain bounds are transgressed. 
Hence their general character was melancholy and timorous, 
awaiting orders to do any thing that might be necessary; 
and in great submission to their rulers, whom they consi- 
dered a race superior to themselves. 

The great body of the people were indigent, living chief- 
ly upon grain and pulse raised by their own labour, and in 
times of scarcity being furnished with food from the public 
granaries. They eat very little meat, and that chiefly at the 
great annual hunting matches, of which we have already 
made brief mention, page 364. At these times, when the 
animals producing wool were shorn and suffered to escape, 
others such as deer, &c. were killed, and their flesh was dis- 
tributed among the people. 


They cut this meat into thongs and slices, which were 
dried in the sun, and thus preserved for a longtime.* 

They appear to have domesticated in their houses, to i 
small extent, some of the rabbits of the country, which the); 
occasionally used for food, as also a species of duck or goose. 
{Garcilazo, 334,) 

1 believe ihey did not domesticate any other animals for 
mere purposes of food. 

In general, they simply boiled their maize, or parched it 
over the fire to prepare it for food; but at other times, they 
made bread from meal, which was procured by crushing 
the grains between two stones,! rudely fashioned, so as to 
facilitate the manipulation. 

They carefully dried the potato, in which state it kept a 
long time, and was considered good food. 

They used salt with their food, made from salt springs 
near the city of Cuzco. 

They made sweet syrups from the stalks of maize, and 
from the maguey plant. 

They prepared an intoxicating drink, according to Garci- 
lazo, by sleeping maize in water until it sprouted. It was 
then mashed and boiled in the same water. After a time, 
they drew the liquid off, and set it by for a few days, when 
it acquired from fermentation, intoxicating qualities. The 
manufacture of this drink called Vinnapu, was forbidden 
by the Inca. 

A more common and intoxicating drink, in taste resem- 
bling cider, was used by them under the name of Jlcua or 
Chicha, the filthy preparation of which, we have remarked 
to have been widely extended among the South American 
nations, and the islanders of the Pacific ocean. 

The chicha, was prepared by a number of persons chew- 
ing the dried grains of maize, quinoa, &c, and then spitting 
the champed grain into a vessel prepared for the purpose: 
water was then poured on, and the whole left to ferment. 
Acosta says, that "the chicha made from grain, which had 
been chewed by old withered women, which makes a man 
sick to hear, was reputed the best." 

Concerning the analogous practices of the South sea islan- 
ders, the reader will please refer to page 96. 

Don Ulloa remarks, [Voy. i. 422) that though drunken- 

*The Peruvians called this dried meat Charqui, from which I presume, we 
have made our term, "Jerked," as applied to the dried beef we receive 
from South America. 

fGarcilazo describes the Peruvians to be acquainted with the pestle and 
moriar for bruising their corn, but that it was considered more laborious 
than to use stones for crushing the grain. 


ness was a notorious vice among the Indians of Peru; yet, it 
was worthy of notice, that the women, whether married or 
not, and young men not of sufficient age to contract matri- 
iTiony, entirely abstained from this vice; it being a maxim 
among them, that drunkenness was only the privilege of 
masters of families, as beiog persons, who, when unable to 
take care of themselves, have those about them to render 
them that service. 

Among other Peruvian gratifications, we must take no- 
tice of the use they made of the leaves of a plant called by 
them coca or cocu. They wrapped up in these leaves 
the ashes of burnt bones, lime, or marly earth, and chew- 
ed this mixture constantly, under the idea that it supported 
their strength and rendered them capable of greater exer- 
tions, {^costa Nat. mid Mor. Hist. 273. Ulloa Voy. 
i. 360.) The latter says, *'the coca is exactly the same 
with the betel of the East Indians; the plant, the leaf, the 
manner of using it are the same." Stevenson [Trav. South 
turner, ii. 63,) says, the coca leaves are those of a small tree 
resembling the orange tree in appearance. 

Tobacco, though known to the Peruvians, was but little 
used, and that as far as 1 have been able to learn, only medi- 
cinally as snuff. It is most probable, that the use of the 
cocu prevailed to its exclusion. 

Their musical instruments appear to have been very few 
and simple. Garcilazo only mentions the Syrinx, and flutes 
with four or five stops; and on one occasion, the beating a 
drum during a festival, is mentioned by him and Herrera. 

At their festivals, they sung odes and songs, and danced. 
I presume these dances were pantomimic, exhibiting the em- 
ployments of life, the stratagems of war and hunting, [Gar. 
Roy. Com. 110, 224.) 

Their sedentary games appear to have been few, a circum- 
stance remarked by Ulloa. He describes one which we 
shall notice from its resemblance to our dice. It is played 
with a bone cut with seven faces, one of which counts ten, 
another is blank, and the other five are marked from one to 
five with as many points or dots. The manner of playing, 
is to toss up this bone and count the mark on the upper face. 
Whoever first counts a hundred, wins the game. {Ulloa 
Voy. i. 424.) 

Of the Marriages of the Peruvians. 

It is presumable, that female chastity was not held in 
greater honour among the Peruvians than among other 


American nations, a trait which is common enough among 
all rude nations, wherever they may be found. 

The laws of the Incas permitted public prostitutes; 
though according to Garcilazo, {Roy. Comment. 114,) they 
were accounted infamous. Don Ulloa [Voy, i. 429,) des- 
cribes the men to manifest a perfect indifference upon the 
subject of virginity, in the persons of their brides, which, 
perhaps, did not belong to them in an equal degree, when 
under the dominion of their Incas. But even in those more 
ancient times, incontinence prevailed to such an extent, that 
to prevent the commission of infanticide, the Incas {Herrera, 
iv. 341,) established foundling hospitals, in which infants 
were received without inquiry, and were brought up at the 
Inca's expense, until of sufficient age to be employed in his 

Every two years, the Inca commanded an account to be 
taken of all the young men belonging to his lineage, be- 
tween twenty and twenty-four years of age, and of all the 
girls between eighteen and twenty. He then taking the 
hands of each couple, vvhom we presume, had previously 
selected each other, joined their hands together, which con- 
stituted the nuptial ceremony.* 

Houses were furnished the new married persons by the 
provinces, and their own parents and relations supplied 
them with the various articles of housewifery. 

The common people were married in a similar manner, 
by the Curaca or Lord of the district, who joined their 
hands as was done by the Inca as above stated. Their 
houses were built by the community to which they belong- 
ed, and were furnished by their kindred and friends. 

It was not lawful to marry out of their own province or 
tribe, though they might choose any one among these except- 
ing their sisters. 

Matrimony was prohibited in the first degree of consan? 
guinity to all persons but the reigning Incas, who were re- 
quired to marry their eldest sisters. The Inca Huyana Ca- 
pac, by special law, allowed the curacas or nobility to marry 
their haif sisters, as a great privilege. {Herrera, iv. 330.) 

Notwithstanding Garcilazo's express declaration that the 
Peruvians were permitted but one wife, Herrera {Hist. Jimer. 
iv. 330, 342,) says, it was no offence to have several wives, 
and that the nobility indulged themselves with large harems. 

*Acosta and Herrera describe the nuptial ceremony, to consist in the 
bridegn-om putting a shoe on the bride; but Garniiazo, with seeming pro- 
bability, snys this was a custom in some of the provinces only, and not the 
proper Peruvian formula. 


Adultery of the wife was punished with death, but not so in 
the case of the concubine. 

From Ulloa {^Voy. i. 430,) we learn, that married persons 
very easily divorced themselves from one another, which 
though an observation of but a few years back, we are inclin- 
ed to think from the permanency of all Indian customs, was 
equally the fact during the reigns of the Incas. 

Of the Funeral Ceremonies of the Peruvians, 

Like all other nations that we have heard of, the Peruvians 
believed in the immortality of the soul, and though no rela- 
tions have descended to our times, describing their peculiar 
ideas concerning the nature of the future state, yet from cer- 
emonies used at their funerals we may safely infer, that they 
considered it nearly analogous to our present state of exist- 
ence, but in which the good alone should enjoy happiness and 
abundance, and the bad be forced to endure a state of being, 
much inferior even to the diversified conditions of the pre- 
sent life. 

When the Inca or any person of consequence died, their 
bodies were embowelled and then gradually dried.* The 
bowels of the Inca were interred at a temple about five leagues 
distant from Cuzco, and with them were buried his arms, 
garments, and such other things as had been useful to him 
whilst alive. Many of his domestics were also put to death 
and buried in the same grave, that they might render their 
wonted services to him in the invisible world. 

The bodies of the Incas when perfectly desicated, were 
placed in a sitting position before the image of the sun at the 
temple of Cuzco, where sacrifices were offered to them. 

They not only made great lamentations over their dead, 
but it would seem they also used mourning clothes, which, 
according to Garcilazo {Hoy. Comment. 357,) were of a grey 

From the multitude of tumuli still existing in Peru, and 

* Acosta says, the Peruvians embalmed their dead Incas "with a certain 
rosin:" but Garcilazo, who had seen such bodies, declares he perceived no 
such substance, and expressly states, that he considers the manner to preserve 
dead bodies, is to dry them gradually on cold mountains. In such situations 
he says, the flesh of animals is preserved from putrefaction as long as we 

In another place he remarks, that at Cuzco, flesh if hung up in an airy 
situation, will, if kept long enough, be dried like mummy, an experiment 
he had himself made 

t Though Garcilazo says, "mourning weeds," I am not certain but this grey 
dress was rather worn as a mark of humiliation by the Inca, on the occur- 
rence of general misfortune, than as indicative of the loss of friends by 


which are from lime to time laid open, we may learn that the 
general practice among this people was to hury, not burn their 
dead. The corpses are found sitting on a low seat, or in a 
squatting posture, (accroupis) with food, utensils, &c. placed 
before them, {Ulloa, Mem. Philos. ii. 447.) 

These tombs are mounds of very different degrees of mag- 
nitude, according to the rank of the individual interred be- 
neath. They are found all over the kingdom, but are re- 
markably numerous within the jurisdiction of the town of 
Cayambe, {Ulloa, Voy. i. 492,) its plains being as it were 
nearly covered with them. This frequency of tumuli^ arises 
from the fact that a principal temple of these people was 
anciently erected there, whose proximity was supposed to 
sanctify the adjacent country. 

As we have already alluded to those customs among other 
nations that seem analogous to the Peruvian funeral ceremo- 
nies, we forbear to again enumerate them at this time. 

Boguer [Mem. Philos. Ulloa, ii. 434,) describes sepul- 
chral mounds in Peru, that are forty feet high by seventy 
fathoms {brases) in length, and forty in breadth. They are 
traversed by long passages, by which we arrive at the bodies. 

Bayer describes some tombs made of hewn stone, three or 
four ells square and from three to six in height, covered with 
flat stones. 

But, perhaps, the most curious of these tombs, are those 
made of sun-dried brick, which are said to be vaulted (voutes) 
like the tops of bread ovens; {la forme etoit en cul-de-four) 
and which proves that the architectural knowledge of this 
people, was much superior to what has been allowed them by 
Garcilazo, Acosta, and others. {Mem. Philos. Ulloa, ii. 
458, notes.) 

Of the Religion of the Peruvians. 

We have already observed, that the Peruvians believed in 
the immortality of the soul, and its reward or punishment 
according to virtuous or evil actions performed during life. 
But of what nature the rewards or punishments were, has not 
been related by any of the writers on this subject accessible 
to me. Acosta {Nat. and Mor. Hist. 345,) contents himself 
with saying, that they believed "the good were in glory, and 
the bad in pain;" but he adds nothing more to this, than that 
there is no difficulty in teaching them this doctrine of the 
christian faith. 

Herrera {Hist. Amer. iv. 348,) informs us, that the Peru- 
vians at certain times made confessions of their sins; where- 
by we learn the nature of those offences that they considered 


obnoxious to divine displeasure. These were ^'killing, when 
it was not in war, stealing, taking another man's wife, poison- 
ing or bewitching, neglect of the service of the gods, break- 
ing their fovStivals, and speaking ill of the Inca, or not being 
obedient to him; but they did not confess any inward sins." 

As we have already discoursed upon the phrase "confes- 
sion of sins," we beg leave to refer the reader to page .309, 
for some observations on that subject. 

The Peruvians, according to Acosta, [Nat. and Mor. Hist. 
333,) worshipped a supreme God, whom they called Viraco- 
cha, the etymology of which we are unable to detect.* He 
was also known by the appellations of Pachacamac,*ow/o///ie 
world, Usapu, adrnirable, and other names. 

Garcilazo {Roy. Comment. 29,) says, he was considered 
as the giver of life, sustainer and nourisher of all things, but 
because they did not see him, they erected no temples to him 
nor offered sacrifices; however they worshipped him in their 
hearts, and esteemed him for the unknown God. 

We incline to the opinion, that Viracocha was the more 
ancient deity of the Peruvians previous to the time of Manco 
Capac, who in remodifying the national religion of the coun- 
try, exalted the worship of the sun above that of other dei- 
ties. We shall presently make some observations upon this 
subject, and state the few reasons we have for making this 

But generally speaking, the sun was the great object of 
Peruvian idolatry during the dominion of the Incas.t Its 
worship was the most solemn, and its temples the most 
splendid in their furniture and decorations, and the common 
people no doubt reverenced that luminary as their chief god. 

A very remarkable circumstance in their worship of the 
sun is mentioned by lierrera, {Hist. Jlmar. iv. 348,) and 

*The Spaniards consider the word Viracocha, signifies /onjn of the sea, but 
Garcilazo, who was a native Indian, positively denies this etymology, though 
he seems to be ignorant of its import, as he gives us no information on the 
point in question. 

t From the account we have given of the origin of the Incas, it is evident 
they represented themselves to be descendants from the sun, and that it was 
a part of their policy to represent that luminary as the chief god of Peru. 
But though tliis doctrine had prevailed to that degree that the Incas them- 
selves participated in the common delusion, yet the twelfth Inca, Huayna 
Capac, a man of superior intelligence, by the force of strong natural parts 
saw reason to doubt the general opinion, and according to Garcilazo, (Roy. 
Comment. 365,) made the following ingenious observation. "There must be 
some other, whom our father the sun takes and esteems for a more supreme 
and powerful lord than himself; by whose commands he every day measures 
the compass of the lieavens without any intermission or hour of repose; for 
if he were absolute and at his o»vn disposal, he would certainly allot himself 
some time of cessation, thotigh it were [only to please his own humour and 
fancy, without other consideration than that of liberty and change." 


olher writers, which shews that the Peruvians blended with 
their solar worship other matters of ancient and significant 
import. At one of their festivals, when that bloody and 
consecrated bread was eaten, which we shall presently de- 
scribe, they exhibited three statues of the sun, each of which 
had a particular name, which, as translated by Herrera, were 
Father and Lord Sun, the Son Sun, and the Brother Sun. 
He moreover says, that at Chucuisaca, they worshipped an 
idol called Tangatanga, which they said was three and one. 

The Spanish writers consider this doctrine to have been 
one stolen by the devil from our divine religion, and im- 
parted by him to this people. By this opinion they evident- 
ly declare its antiquity in Peru to have been greater than the 
time of the Spanish conquest. 

As we can perceive no reason to think the doctrine of the 
trinity as taught in the Christian religion, was known dur- 
ing the patriarchal or judaical dispensations, we cannot be- 
lieve that the trinity of the Peruvians, has any reference to 
that dogma of our religion; and to suppose that christians 
had reached Peru before the time of Pizarro, is purely a 
gratuitous hypothesis unsupported by facts of any kind. 

We therefore presume their trinity to be founded in those 
early corruptions of patriarchal history, in which men began 
to represent Adam, and his three sons; and Noah, and his 
three sons; as being triplicates of the same essential person, 
who originally was the universal father of the human race: 
and secondly, being triplicated in their three sons, who also 
were considered the fathers of mankind. But as we have 
already discoursed on this subject, we must refer our readers 
to page 320, where we have endeavoured to exhibit the Rev. 
Mr. Faber's views on this curious subject, which we consi- 
der explains it very happily. 

The moon was considered by the Peruvians as the wife of 
the sun; and to her sacrifices were made of a similar nature. 

The planets, the pleiades, and stars in general, were es- 
teemed handmaids and servants to the moon, and as such 
received homage. 

Acosta {Nat. and Mor. Hist. 336,) says, the shepherds 
worshipped the constellation Lyra, which they imagined to 
be of the form of a lama, and considered it to exert a guar- 
dian influence over their flocks. They supposed other stars 
or constellations exercised control over serpents; others, 
over different kinds of wild beasts; and in fact that every 
animal on the earth was governed by one placed in the hea- 
vens, whose form and shape they imagined could be traced 
among the stars. 


Thunder, lightning, and the rainbow, were also objects 
of religious veneration, and to which sacrifices were offered. 

Thunder, or the deity producing thunder, partook of the 
triplicated character, being known to them by three different 
names. They supposed it was occasioned by a deity in hea- 
ven armed with a sling and club, who held under his con- 
trolling power, the rain, hail, thunder, and oiher meteorolo- 
gical phenomena. {Jlcosta, Nat. and Mor. Hist. 335.) 

Acosta further says, they worshipped the earth, the sea, 
and any natural object that seemed remarkable and pecu- 
liar in its character; throwing garments, feathers, food, &c. 
before it as their offerings. If too poor or destitute to make 
such donations, they cast a stone in the same manner. It 
was from this circumstance, that heaps of stone, like the 
Mercurial heaps of the ancients, have been observed in vari- 
ous parts of the country. 

The evil spirit of the Peruvians, was called Cupay, and 
whose name was always mentioned by them with signs of 
detestation, and by spitting on the ground. {Garcilazo, 
Roy. Comment. 29.) But we have no intimation given us, 
in what manner he was supposed to exert his influence; nor 
are we told whether they ever attempted to propitiate him. 

The Peruvians, unlike the Mexicans, made few idolatrous 
images, except those of the sun and moon. Acosta {Nat. 
and Mor. Hist. 414,) says, that when they celebrated their 
festival of Yntip Ray mi, "they made many images of carved 
quinua wood, all attired with rich garments;" but he does 
not state in what forms these images were made, nor whom 
they represented.* 

Idols of gold and silver, or human figures of those metals, 
supposed to have been idols, arc occasionally found among 
the ancient monuments of Peru, but we know nothing in 
reality concerning their use or object. 

The Inca Viracocha erected a temple to the god of that 
name, who appeared to him in a bodily shape, and promised 
him a great victory over an enemy then encamped in the 
Peruvian territory. In this temple, an image of stone was 
placed, representing the god in the dress and manner in 
which he condescended to be seen. This image (Garcilazo, 
169,) was that of a man, with a beard about a span long, his 
clothes reaching to his feet, not wide and full, but something 

'^Skinner {Vres. Stale of Peru, 259,) remarks that the Peruvians had house- 
hold-gods, which were called canopas, or giMsicamayoc: (lords of the house.) 
They also set up stones iii their fields and plantations, which were worship- 
ped as protectors of their crops, &.c. These stones appear to have been 
without shape or animal resemblance. I do not know who Skinner's author- 
ity was for these statements j they arc, however, probably correct. 


scanty like a cassock. About his neck, a strange kind of 
animal was chained, which had claws like a lion, (the ja- 
guar.) One of the links of the chain was placed in the hand 
of the image. 

The Spaniards demolished the temple, and defaced the 
image, but Garcilazo says, it was to be seen in his time, in 
its mutilated condition. 

Garcilazo {Roy. Comment. 30.) declares that in one of 
the royal apartments (called holy) of the Inca at Cuzco, 
was a cross made of white marble, whose arms were all of 
the same size; but he does not state its length. This cross, 
which was hung up to the wall by a golden chain, was held 
in great veneration, though it was not worshipped. 

As there is no other information given us of this cross, 
but that it was of greater antiquity than the times of the 
Spaniards, we cannot undertake to urge any considerations 
on its use or meaning. But, that it is not an insulated fact 
in the history of aboriginal America, we refer the reader 
back to page 322, where we have discussed this subject at 
some length. 

Whatever else we can learn of the religion of the Peru- 
vians, must be derived from the imperfect descriptions that 
have been given to us concerning their temples, priests, re- 
ligious festivals &c. which, though but meagre in their de- 
tails, will enable us to estimate, in a tolerable degree, this 
part of their institutions. 

Though guacas, or temples, were numerous throughout the 
Peruvian dominions, I have not been able to meet with any 
description of them, that conveys any just idea of their con- 
struction. It would seem that they were all dedicated to 
the worship of the sun, except in the single instance of the 
temple erected by the Inca Viracocha to the divinity of that 

The temple of Pachacamac, that anciently made the val- 
ley in which Lima is now built so famous, was not an erec- 
tion of the Incas, but of a nation or people called Yuncas, 
who were subdued by them. As Pachacamac is asynonyme 
of Viracocha, we presume the edifice was consecrated to his 
service; but as it was not of Peruvian workmanship, we 
forbear for the present, to speak concerning its plan. 

Garcilazo {Royal Com,nient. 87,) informs us the princi- 
pal temple of the sun was at Cuzco, and that it was built of 
free-stone; but as he was ignorant of its exact dimensions, 
he has forebore to make any estimate, and hardly any des- 
cription of the building. We are unable to suj)ply these 
deficiencies, but conjecture that this temple, like the palace 


of tho Inca. consisted of several diflerent buildings, closely 
assembled together; each buildinjr or house, of one story 
only, and containing perhaps, a single, or at most, but two 

The sanctuary especially dedicated to the sun, was wain- 
scotted with panels of wood, to which thin plates of gold 
were fastened. The whole of one side of this chamber was 
ornamented with a figure of the sun wrought upon gold, 
with rays and emissions of light proceeding from it as it is 
usually depicted by our painters. 

On each side of this image, the desiccated bodies of the 
deceased Incas were placed, each seated on a stool made of 

In an adjoining apartment, was a room decorated with 
silver, in the same manner as the one just described was 
adorned with gold. Tliis chamber was dedicated to the 
moon, as the wife of the sun; and her image, representing 
a female face, was exhibited on a silver plate fastened to one 
side of the room. On each side of this plate, the dried 
bodies of the deceased wives or queens of the Incas were 

A third chamber was dedicated to the planet Venus, the 
Pleiades, and the stars in general. Venus was considered 
the page of the sun, from being always in his vicinity. The 
other stars, belonged to the court of the moon, as her atten- 
dants. Their apartment was plated with silver, and the ceil- 
ing painted to represent the starry heavens. 

A fourth apartment was dedicated to thunder and light- 
ning; and a lifth, to the rainbow, which they considered an 
emission from the sun. For that reason, its I'epresentation 
was adopted by the Incas as symbolizing their affiliation 
from the same luminary. The apartment consecrated to the 
rainbow, was furnished with gold, and on the walls, the 
ligure of one was painted in glowing colours.* 

There was also an apartment appropriated to the high 
priest, not as a lodging room, but for holding consultations 
upon all matters pertaining to their religious system; and 
various apartments of less note, vvere alloted for the use of 
the inferior priests and servants of the t